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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Pope Francis is out of surgery with ‘no complications,’ Vatican says

Pope Francis arriving to lead his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Wednesday.

By Elisabetta Povoledo

Pope Francis was recovering from intestinal surgery Wednesday, after a three-hour procedure to treat a hernia that had “no complications,” the Vatican said. It is the second time that Francis has been hospitalized in a little over two months, raising new concerns about his health.

“The Holy Father is well, I think that’s the news that you and the entire world were waiting for,” Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the surgeon who led a team of doctors that operated on Francis, told reporters gathered at the hospital Wednesday evening. “He’s fine, awake and alert, and he joked with me not 10 minutes ago.”

The pope, 86, was resting in a 10th-floor suite reserved for popes at Policlinico A. Gemelli hospital in Rome.

Francis had made an unexpected visit to the hospital Tuesday for what the Vatican said were routine medical checks. During that visit, Francis underwent a CT scan, Alfieri said, and the medical team that cares for the pope determined that surgery under general anesthesia was necessary.

“It was not an emergency situation,” he said, but because it was getting more painful, the pope decided to have the operation immediately, “reorganizing his agenda,” he added. “As you know, he decides everything himself.”

Francis, who became pope 10 years ago, has dealt with a number of health issues, including major surgery in 2021 in which doctors removed roughly 13 inches of his large intestine because of inflammation that caused a narrowing of his colon. He now often uses a cane or a wheelchair because of knee problems and sciatica.

Francis held his weekly general audience as scheduled Wednesday morning in St. Peter’s Square. He appeared serene, shaking hands with the faithful and allowing several children to board the so-called popemobile while he was driven around the square. The Vatican confirmed that the pope’s audiences would be canceled until June 18 as a precautionary measure.

Doctors operated on what is known as an incisional hernia, typically the consequence of previous operations, which Alfieri, director of abdominal and endocrine sciences at Gemelli, said had been causing painful intestinal occlusions that were getting “continuously more frequent.”

An incision was made into the abdominal wall, and the hernia — which can create discomfort or complications — was treated by applying surgical mesh to the abdominal wall.

Such hernias can occur frequently after abdominal surgery, though other factors like age and weight can increase the likelihood of their development. The hernias can also cause blockages, which can result in abdominal pain, and if they are not treated, they can block the intestine completely.

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