Justice Ginsburg has stent implanted in heart procedure

Richard Wolf
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at 81 the high court's oldest member, had a stent implanted during a heart procedure Wednesday morning to address a blockage in her right coronary artery.

The blockage was discovered at MedStar Washington Hospital Center after Ginsburg experienced discomfort exercising Tuesday night, court spokesperson Kathy Arberg said.

The justice was resting comfortably after surgery and is likely to leave the hospital within 48 hours. She has served on the court since 1993.

Ginsburg has had several health issues in the past 15 years but has not missed a day in court. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A decade later, she had surgery for pancreatic cancer, a disease that was caught in its infancy.

To keep in shape after emerging from Washington Hospital Center in 1999 weighing less than 100 pounds, Ginsburg became a gym rat, exercising twice a week with a personal trainer in the court's gymnasium. She often boasted of being able to do 20 "male" pushups.

The second woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg has been the subject of retirement rumors since last year — rumors she has consistently denied. She has faced pressure from some liberal allies to step down while President Obama is in office to give the Democratic president a chance to replace her.

Barring a health emergency, the likelihood that she would step down became more remote after Republicans' takeover of the Senate, giving them virtual veto power over anyone Obama would nominate to replace her.

In an interview with USA TODAY last year, Ginsburg insisted she had not lost a step mentally and was planning her future one year at a time.

"As long as I can do the job full-steam, I would like to stay here," she said. "I have to take it year by year at my age, and who knows what could happen next year? Right now, I know I'm OK."