ROME, June 7 (Reuters) – Pope Francis underwent a successful three-hour operation at a Rome hospital on Wednesday to repair a hernia, and doctors said there should be no restrictions on his travels and other activities after his recovery.
“He was joking with me about when we would do the third operation,” said chief surgeon Dr. Sergio Alfieri, who spoke of the pope’s good spirits and caution as he woke up.
Speaking to reporters at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, Alfieri was referring to the fact that the hernia was caused by scars from abdominal surgery in 2021.
The surgeon said Francis, 86, responded well to general anesthesia and he expected the pope to stay in the hospital for about 5-7 days.
But he warned that while the pope was strong, he was elderly and had recently had bronchitis, so “we will take all the necessary precautions” regarding his hospital stay.
Francis, who has two trips planned this summer, was taken to the hospital after his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square, where he showed no signs of entering hospital for planned surgery.
The operation took place on the 10th floor reserved for popes at a Catholic-run hospital not far from the Vatican.
This is Francis’ third hospital stay since 2013, when cardinals elected the Argentine as Latin American pope. This is the latest in a series of health problems in recent years.
Visitors were canceled until mid-June
The Vatican said all private and public visits by the Pope until June 18 have been cancelled. However, during his stay there in 2021, Francis recited the traditional Sunday prayer from the hospital balcony.
In a statement released Wednesday morning, it said the surgery was necessary to repair a laprocele, a hernia that sometimes forms over a scar resulting from a previous surgery. It is more common in the elderly and can also be caused by obesity or weakness of the abdominal wall muscles.
Alfieri said the pope himself decided Tuesday to have the surgery the next day after undergoing a CAT scan at the same hospital.
Pope’s condition causes painful, intestinal blockages that “continue to worsen,” Alfieri said.
Francis underwent a laparotomy, or open abdominal surgery, and a prosthesis was used to reconstruct the abdominal wall.
In July 2021, he had part of his colon removed in an operation aimed at addressing a painful intestinal condition called diverticulitis. Earlier this year, she said the condition returned and was affecting her weight.
Francis spent five days at the same hospital in late March for a lung infection and missed a day of visitors last month due to a fever.
Pope often uses a wheelchair or crutches because of constant knee pain. Last year he didn’t want to have surgery on his knee because the general anesthesia for his colon surgery had unpleasant side effects.
The Vatican on Saturday announced plans to visit Mongolia from August 31 to September 31. 4, one of the farthest places he traveled.
Prior to that, he is scheduled to visit Portugal from August 2-6 to attend the World Youth Day in Lisbon and visit the Fatima shrine. The Vatican released an official schedule for the trip on Tuesday, giving a sign of confirmation.
Additional reporting by Alvis Armellini, Keith Weir, Federico Maggioni and Crispian Palmer, Editing by William McLean, Alex Richardson and Nick McPhee
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