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Bernie Sanders has undergone a heart procedure for an artery blockage and is canceling events until further notice, according to his campaign office.
Sanders, 78, a Vermont senator and a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, was hospitalized in Nevada on Tuesday night.
“During a campaign event yesterday evening, Senator Sanders experienced some chest discomfort,” Sanders’ senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement on Wednesday. “Following medical evaluation and testing he was found to have a blockage in one artery and two stents were successfully inserted.”
Weaver added: “Senator Sanders is conversing and in good spirits. He will be resting up over the next few days. We are canceling his events and appearances until further notice, and we will continue to provide appropriate updates.”
His wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, was on her way to Las Vegas on Wednesday morning, and according to the Associated Press, said her husband was “doing really well”.
Sanders was among 10 presidential candidates due to appear at a presidential forum on gun safety in Las Vegas on Wednesday. He will no longer attend.
Later in the day, a tweet from Sanders’ Twitter account thanked supporters, and plugged his trademark Medicare for All healthcare plan.
“Thanks for all the well wishes. I’m feeling good,” the tweet read. “I’m fortunate to have good health care and great doctors and nurses helping me to recover. None of us know when a medical emergency might affect us. And no one should fear going bankrupt if it occurs. Medicare for All!”
Following a noticeably hoarse performance during the third televised presidential debate last month, Sanders canceled a handful of events in South Carolina to rest his voice. He attributed his lost voice to “giving too many speeches lately” and his campaign insisted the senator was not sick.
If elected, Sanders would be the oldest president to serve. He is also the oldest candidate in the 19-person Democratic field, and is three years older than Donald Trump.
Asked about his age, the Vermont senator has said he considers himself “blessed” with “good health” and “good energy”. He points to his athleticism, running long distance when he was younger.
“Judge a person on whether you like them, whether their ideas make sense, whether you think they can do the job,” Sanders told CBS News in his first interview after entering the race. “I think that’s how we should look at people running for office, not just on one criteria, about age.”
His aides have said age-related concerns amount to “ageism” and dare critics to try to keep pace with the senator on the campaign trail. Sanders keeps a notoriously rigorous schedule, often packing multiple events in different cities into a single day.
The age of the party’s frontrunners – all of whom are in their 70s – has been a subtext of the campaign, and younger candidates have made the case for a new generation of leadership.
The former vice-president Joe Biden’s tendency to deliver sometimes discordant responses during speeches and debate performances has raised questions from other candidates and voters about his acuity. Biden is 76.
The Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, 70, has received the least age-related scrutiny, perhaps due to her sharp delivery and frequent displays of agility. At campaign events, Warren typically jogs on to the stage, and a video of her sprinting through New York’s Penn Station to catch a train went viral earlier this year.
News of Sanders’ procedure comes after his campaign announced one of the strongest fundraising totals of the quarter. Sanders raised $25m, the highest among any candidate who have reported their figures so far.
The haul was a welcome reset after a long summer of losing ground to Warren, who has passed him as the progressive alternative to Biden. Sanders has dropped to third place in most national and state-level polls behind Biden and Warren and his campaign has started to reshuffle staff in an effort to reclaim his standing.
Sanders’ Democratic rivals were quick to respond to the news, wishing him a speedy recovery.
“Anyone who knows Bernie understands what a force he is,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “We are confident that he will have a full and speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him on the trail soon.”
“I hope to see my friend back on the trail very soon,” Warren said.
“He’s a fighter,” Harris added. “I look forward to seeing him on the campaign trail soon.”
The procedure Sanders underwent can immediately improve symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. The stents are threaded into place through blood vessels in the groin or wrist, requiring only a tiny incision. Most are coated with medication to prevent the targeted artery from re-closing. That is still a risk, requiring monitoring, and patients also often are prescribed blood thinners to prevent clots from forming in the stents.
A letter released by his physician when he ran for president in 2016 showed that he was in “overall very good health” with elevated cholesterol but no history of cardiovascular disease. Sanders has said he will release his medical records before the primary begins next year.