ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis underwent a three-hour operation in a Rome hospital on Wednesday to repair a hernia that doctors said was successful enough not to place restrictions on his travels and other activities after his recovery.
“He was joking with me about when we would have the third operation,” said Chief Surgeon Dr. Sergio Alfieri, who performed the first abdominal surgery in 2021.
Speaking to reporters at Gemelli Hospital in Rome, Alfieri said that no other illnesses or diseases were detected during the operation.
The surgeon said the 86-year-old Francis had responded well to general anesthesia and that he expected the pope to stay in the hospital for five to seven days.
But he cautioned that, despite his strength, the pope was elderly and had recently been suffering from bronchitis, so “we will take all necessary precautions” regarding the timing of his hospital stay.
Francis has planned two trips this summer, and Alfieri said he sees no medical reason why the pope should change his schedule.
His only warning to the Pope was not to lift any heavy objects.
“He looked at me as if to say, ‘I am the Pope,'” Alfieri said. I don’t lift weights.”
Francis was taken to hospital after his weekly public audience in St Peter’s Square, where he showed no sign that he was about to be hospitalized for a planned operation.
The operation took place at a Catholic-run hospital a short drive from the Vatican, which has a ward on the tenth floor reserved for popes.
It is Francis’ third hospital stay since the Argentine was chosen by cardinals in 2013 to be the first pope in Latin America. It is the latest in a series of health problems in recent years.
Attendance has been canceled through mid-June
The Vatican said all public and private audiences of the pope through June 18 have been cancelled. But in his 2021 stay there, Francis said traditional Sunday prayers from the hospital balcony.
A statement released Wednesday morning said the operation was necessary to repair an abdominal hernia, a hernia that sometimes forms over a scar usually caused by previous surgery. It is more common in the elderly and can also be due to obesity or weak abdominal wall muscles.
On Tuesday, Alfieri said, the pope himself decided to have the operation the next day after a CT scan at the same hospital.
Alfieri said the Pope’s condition had caused a painful intestinal obstruction, adding that the condition was “continually getting worse”.
Francis underwent abdominal surgery, and a prosthesis was used to reconstruct the abdominal wall.
In July 2021, part of his colon was removed in an operation intended to treat a painful bowel condition called diverticulitis. He said earlier this year that the condition had returned and affected his weight.
Francis was treated for five days in the same hospital at the end of March for a lung infection and last month skipped masses for a day due to a fever.
Pope often uses a wheelchair or walking stick due to persistent knee pain. Last year, he didn’t want to have surgery on his knee because general anesthesia for colon surgery had bad side effects.
On Saturday, the Vatican announced its plans to visit Mongolia from August 31 to September 31. 4, one of the most remote places he has ever traveled to.
Before that, he is scheduled to visit Portugal from August 2 to 6 to attend World Youth Day in Lisbon and visit the Fatima Shrine. On Tuesday, the Vatican released the official timetable for the flight, hinting at its confirmation.
Additional reporting by Elvis Armellini, Keith Weir, Federico Macchioni and Crispian Palmer, Editing by William McLean, Alex Richardson and Nick McPhee
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