Pope Has Hernia Repaired During 3-Hour Surgery

Pope Francis
Pope FrancisPope Francis Photo: vatican.va / L'Osservatore Romano

THURSDAY, June 8, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- After three hours of surgery on Wednesday, Pope Francis was recovering at Gemelli hospital in Rome on Thursday.

Pope Francis had a hernia in his abdominal wall repaired, along with the removal of scar tissue in his intestine that had created a partial blockage and was causing him pain, the Associated Press reported.

Doctors placed a prosthetic mesh in his abdominal wall to repair the hernia, which had not yet led to protrusion of the intestine through the tear. They did not find other pathologies. The tissue that was removed was benign, the AP reported.

“It appears they operated on him in a timely fashion, with no compromise to his intestine,” Dr. Walter Longo, chief of colon and rectal surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, told the AP.

Dr. Sergio Alfieri, director of abdominal and endocrine sciences at Gemelli, called the surgery successful. Alfieri had performed the pope’s 2021 colon surgery, the AP reported.

Pope Francis was awake and joking after the latest procedure, the Vatican said in a statement released Thursday.

The 86-year-old pontiff is expected to be in the hospital for several days and has canceled all papal audiences through June 18, the Vatican noted.

“The stay at the health facility will last several days to allow for the normal post-operative course and full functional recovery,” the Vatican said.

He is then expected to get back to work with a busy summer that includes a four-day visit to Portugal the first week of August and a trip to Mongolia starting Aug. 31, the AP reported.

Pope Francis may take longer to recover from the surgery because it was longer at three hours than a typical 60- to 90-minute hernia operation, the AP reported. Alfieri said scar tissue was completely removed.

Although Pope Francis has previously said he hadn’t responded well to general anesthetic used to remove 13 inches of his large intestine in 2021, Alfieri said the pope had no adverse reactions to the anesthesia then or during this latest surgery.

“Clearly, no one likes to be operated on and put to sleep because the moment we’re put under, we lose consciousness,” he told an evening news conference at the hospital with the Vatican spokesman by his side, the AP reported. “But there was no physiological problem two years ago or today.”

His likely greatest issue after surgery will be managing pain, Dr. Manish Chand, a professor of surgery at University College London who specializes in colon procedures, told the AP.

“In the first six weeks after this type of surgery, you’re at risk of getting a recurrence again,” Chand said.

Abdominal surgery can also affect lung function, Dr. Robin Phillips, an emeritus professor of colon surgery at Imperial College London, told the AP. Pope Francis had part of one lung removed when he was young and was recently treated for bronchitis.

“I suspect they are doing it now because they are worried it might become more complicated and result in an emergency operation, which would carry an even bigger risk...,” Phillips said.

More information

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has more on hernia surgery.

SOURCES: The Vatican, news release, June 8, 2023; Associated Press

What This Means For You

Pope Francis was recovering from successful hernia surgery on Thursday at a hospital in Rome.

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