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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Pope Francis Emerges from 3-Hour Abdominal Surgery without Complications


Wed 07 Jun 2023 | 11:41 PM
H-Tayea

Pope Francis underwent successful surgery Wednesday to repair a hernia in his abdominal wall, the latest malady to befall the 86-year-old pontiff who had part of his colon removed two years ago.

The Vatican said there were no complications during the three-hour surgery, which required Francis to be under general anesthesia. Soon after the procedure, the surgeon who performed the operation said the pope was awake and that the hernia was fixed.

The pontiff was expected to remain at Rome’s Gemelli hospital for several days. As a precaution, all papal audiences were canceled through June 18, the Vatican said.

Dr. Sergio Alfieri, director of abdominal and endocrine sciences at Gemelli, who also performed Francis’ 2021 colon surgery, said the pope was alert and even joking. “When will we do the third one?” he quoted Francis as saying.

During the operation, doctors removed the adhesions, or internal scarring, that had caused the pope pain in recent months, said Alfieri, who also revealed that Francis had undergone previous undisclosed abdominal surgery sometime before 2013 in Argentina.

In the most recent operation, a prosthetic mesh was placed in the abdominal wall to repair the hernia, Alfieri said.

While hernia operations are rarely performed on an emergency basis, the procedure appeared somewhat urgent, scheduled just a day after Francis went to the hospital for tests. The pontiff's doctors no doubt also wanted to give him ample time for recovery ahead of a busy travel schedule later this summer.

The pope was suffering from a hernia that formed over a previous scar, presumably from his 2021 colon surgery. Experts said the formation of the hernia, called a laparocele, is a known complication from intestinal surgery. The concern is that a portion of his intestine may have bulged through the tear and become trapped.

At three hours, the pope’s procedure was considerably longer than the standard 60 to 90 minutes doctors say the operation usually takes.

Spending more time under anesthesia, coupled with being on a ventilator for so long — in someone who has lost part of one lung as a young man — could put the pontiff at risk of breathing complications or a longer-than-expected recovery time.

It was also unclear if doctors removed any more sections of the pope’s colon, which may have been made necessary by the hernia.

Francis went to the hospital for previously unannounced tests Tuesday, returned to the Vatican and presided over his audience Wednesday morning, but then went straight to Gemelli for the procedure afterward.