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George W. Bush had the procedure done in Dallas. He is expected to resume normal activities Thursday.
George W. Bush had the procedure done in Dallas. He is expected to resume normal activities Thursday.AP file

Former president George W. Bush successfully underwent a heart procedure in Dallas on Tuesday after doctors discovered a blockage in an artery during his physical, a Bush spokesman said.

“The procedure was performed successfully this morning, without complication, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital,’’ said Freddy Ford.

Bush, 67, was expected to be discharged Wednesday and resume his normal schedule the following day.

The blockage was discovered Monday at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, where the nation’s 43d president lives.

Bush was described as being ‘‘in high spirits’’ and eager to return home.

‘‘He is grateful to the skilled medical professionals who have cared for him,’’ Ford said. ‘‘He thanks his family, friends, and fellow citizens for their prayers and well wishes. And he encourages us all to get our regular checkups.’’

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Stents are mesh scaffoldings that prop open arteries typically clogged by years of quiet cholesterol buildup. About half a million people have stents inserted in the United States each year, generally involving an overnight stay in the hospital.

Doctors usually guide a narrow tube through a blood vessel near the groin up to the heart, inflate a tiny balloon to flatten the blockage and insert the stent.

Doctors often recommend first trying medication to treat a clogged artery. More severe blockages, particularly in several arteries, may require bypass surgery. Arteries can reclog, so patients often are put on heart-friendly diets or medication.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that President Obama was briefed on Bush’s procedure and ‘‘obviously wishes him well.’’ He didn’t believe Obama and Bush had spoken, Carney said.

Bush is known as a fitness buff. In 1993, before he was elected Texas governor, he ran the Houston Marathon in a respectable 3:44.52.

While in the White House, he frequently used a quarter-mile jogging path on the south lawn. Bush was known to run about 3 miles four days a week and cross-trained with swimming, free weights, and an elliptical trainer. When doctors found his exercise was damaging his knees, he turned to mountain biking.

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Since leaving office, Bush hosts and leads an annual 100-kilometer mountain bike ride with about 20 wounded military veterans. This year’s ride was near Waco and his Central Texas ranch.

Pentagon eases furloughs for civilian employees

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon moved Tuesday to ease the pain of mandatory, unpaid furloughs that civilian employees have had to bear for a month because of budgetary pressures, cutting the number of days off from 11 to 6.

Defense officials said the Pentagon found sufficient savings in the final months of the current fiscal year to lessen the burden on those who have had to take a day off a week without pay since early July. As a result, the final furlough day for most workers will be next week.

All together, officials said they were able to identify about $1.5 billion in new savings. About $1 billion of that was used to buy back the five furlough days and another $500 million is being used to restore money for Air Force training and flight hours, along with training for about six Army brigade combat teams.

But even as they eased some of the more painful budget cuts, defense officials told reporters Tuesday that the struggles have drastically demoralized the workforce, created difficult budget uncertainties, and eroded military training and readiness to the extent that it will take months to recover.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the final furlough numbers this week after meeting with top leaders. Officials discussed this situation only if granted anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about it publicly.

‘‘I want to thank our civilian workforce for their patience and continued dedication to our mission during these extraordinarily tough times,’’ Hagel said in a letter to top military and defense officials Tuesday. ‘‘I regret the difficulties they and their families had to face during this furlough period.’’

The decision came as about 650,000 civilian workers began their fifth week of furloughs, which have prompted many workers to complain directly to Hagel during his visits to military bases in recent weeks.

One major change, officials said, is that teachers and support staff in Defense Department schools who were scheduled to begin their furloughs at the end of August will now be completely exempt from the unpaid days off.