The Pope is alert and joking after undergoing surgery on intestines and a hernia, hospital reveals
Pope Francis woke up today after a good first night in hospital following a three-hour operation to remove intestinal scar tissue and repair a hernia in his abdominal wall, problems that developed after previous surgeries.
“The night went well,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement early Thursday, adding that more updates would be released later.
Dr. Sergio Alfieri, director of abdominal and endocrine sciences at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, said Wednesday’s surgery was successful and no complications or other pathologies were discovered.
Alfieri, who also removed part of Francis’s colon in 2021, told an evening press conference that the pope was awake, alert and even joking.
“When are we doing the third?” he quoted Francis as saying.
The pope was expected to stay in the 10th-floor papal suite in Gemelli for several days, and all papal audiences were canceled until June 18. The Vatican would provide a medical update later on Thursday.
Pope Francis (pictured yesterday in the Vatican) woke up today after a good first night in hospital following a three-hour operation to remove intestinal scar tissue and repair a hernia in his abdominal wall
The surgery was scheduled after Francis complained of increasing pain and intestinal blockages. After going to Gemelli for a check-up on Tuesday, Francis was admitted after his general audience on Wednesday and underwent the procedure a short time later.
The surgery was now likely planned to give Francis enough time to recover before embarking on the planned trip later this summer: an August 2-6 trip to Portugal for World Youth Day and an August 31-September trip to Portugal. 4 trip to Mongolia.
During the surgery, doctors removed any adhesions or internal scars on the bowel that had caused a partial blockage. Alfieri revealed that in addition to the colon surgery in 2021, Francis had previous abdominal surgeries in his native Argentina sometime before 2013, which had also caused scarring.
To repair the hernia that formed over a previous scar, a prosthetic mesh was placed in the abdominal wall, Alfieri said. He added that the pope did not suffer from any other pathology, that the tissue removed was benign and that he should be fine after he recovers.
A dreaded protrusion, or bulge of the intestine through the hernia tear, was apparently not found.
“It looks like they operated on him in a timely manner without compromising his bowel,” said Dr. Walter Longo, chief of colon and rectal surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, who did not participate in the operation and commented after consulting with the Vatican statement about the procedure.
According to canon law, Francis continued to be in charge of the Vatican and the 1.3 billion strong Catholic Church even while he was unconscious and hospitalized.
In July 2021, Francis spent 10 days in Gemelli to remove 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his colon. In an interview with The Associated Press in January, Francis said the diverticulosis, or bulges in his intestinal wall, was what prompted the return from surgery.
Pope Francis waves as he departs in the Popemobile at the end of the weekly general audience on Wednesday prior to his surgery
After that surgery, Francis complained that he hadn’t responded well to the general anesthetic. That response partially explained his refusal to have surgery to repair strained knee ligaments that have forced him to use a wheelchair and walker for more than a year.
However, Alfieri said Francis had no clinically adverse reactions to the anesthesia in 2021 or Wednesday.
“Obviously nobody likes to be operated on and put to sleep, because the moment we’re put under water, we lose consciousness,” he said. “But two years ago or today there was no physiological problem.”
Dr. Manish Chand, a professor of surgery at University College London who specializes in colorectal surgery, said the biggest issue going forward will be pain management and ensuring the wound heals properly.
“In the first six weeks after this kind of surgery, you run the risk of having another recurrence,” he said. To avoid this, patients are advised not to do anything strenuous.