Rome — Pope Francis underwent intestinal surgery Wednesday, two years after hebecause of an inflammation and narrowing of the large intestine.
The procedure successfully removed intestinal scar tissue and repaired a hernia in Francis’ abdominal wall, the latest maladies to befall the 86-year-old pontiff.
The Vatican said there were no complications during the three-hour surgery, which required Francis to be under general anesthesia. The pontiff was expected to remain at Rome’s Gemelli hospital for several days, and all papal audiences were canceled through June 18.
Dr. Sergio Alfieri, director of abdominal and endocrine sciences at Gemelli, who also performed Francis’ 2021 colon surgery, said the operation was successful. A short time later, the pope was awake, alert and even joking.
“When will we do the third one?” he quoted Francis as saying.
During the operation, doctors removed adhesions, or internal scarring, on the intestine that had caused a partial blockage, as well as pain in recent months. Alfieri revealed that Francis had undergone previous undisclosed abdominal surgeries sometime before 2013 in Argentina, which had also caused scarring.
To repair the hernia that had formed over a previous scar, a prosthetic mesh was placed in the abdominal wall, Alfieri said. He added that the pope was suffering from no other pathologies, that the tissue removed was benign and that after he recovers, he should be fine.
A feared protrusion, or bulging of the intestine through the hernia tear, was apparently not found.
“It appears they operated on him in a timely fashion with no compromise to his intestine,” said Dr. Walter Longo, chief of colon and rectal surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, who did not participate in the surgery and commented after consulting the Vatican statement on the procedure.
“The stay at the health facility will last several days to allow for the normal post-operative course and full functional recovery,” the statement said.
Francis spent 10 days at Gemelli in July 2021 for his prior intestinal surgery. He had suffered what the Vatican said was a severe inflammation and narrowing of the colon.
In an interview with The Associated Press in January, Francis said the diverticulosis, or bulges in his intestinal wall, that prompted the 2021 surgery, had returned.
Francis went to the Gemelli on Tuesday for what the Vatican said were medical tests. It revealed no details at the time.
Francis, 86, had appeared in good form Wednesday morning at his audience in St. Peter’s Square, zipping around the square in his popemobile, greeting the faithful. He also had two meetings Wednesday morning beforehand, the Vatican said.
The Argentine pope had part of one lung removed when he was a young man. He also suffers from sciatica nerve pain and has been using a wheelchair and walker for more than a year because of strained ligaments in his knee.
The pontiff spent three days at the hospital in late March. Initially, the Vatican said he had gone in for scheduled tests, but he later revealed he had felt pain in his chest and was rushed to the hospital, where bronchitis was diagnosed. He was put on intravenous antibiotics and was released April 1,
Francis has had a packed schedule of late, with multiple audiences each day. The Vatican has recently confirmed a travel-filled August, when the Holy See and Italy are usually on vacation, with a four-day visit to Portugal the first week of August and a similarly long trip to Mongolia starting Aug. 31.
In a sign that the trips were very much on, the Vatican on Tuesday released the planned itinerary for Francis’ visit to Portugal for World Youth Day events from Aug. 2-6. The itinerary confirms a typically busy schedule that includes all the protocol meetings of an official state visit plus multiple events with young people and a day trip to the Marian shrine at Fatima.