Pope Francis' Surgery Was Successful

Surgeon says Francis cracked joke afterward
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 7, 2023 12:52 PM CDT
Updated Jun 7, 2023 5:25 PM CDT
Pope Francis Goes Under the Knife
Surgeon Sergio Alfieri speaks to reporters about Pope Francis' health conditions after operating on him at Rome's Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic, Wednesday, June 7, 2023.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
UPDATE Jun 7, 2023 5:25 PM CDT

Pope Francis underwent successful surgery Wednesday to remove intestinal scar tissue and repair a hernia in his abdominal wall. The Vatican said there were no complications during the three-hour surgery, which required the 86-year-old to be under general anesthesia, the AP reports. The pontiff is expected to remain at Rome’s Gemelli hospital for several days, and all papal audiences have been 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.

Jun 7, 2023 12:52 PM CDT

Pope Francis was admitted to the hospital for surgery Wednesday to repair an intestinal hernia, the latest malady to befall the 86-year-old who had part of his colon removed in 2021. Francis was to be put under general anesthesia for the abdominal surgery and remain at Rome's Gemelli hospital for several days. While hernia operations are rarely performed on an emergency basis, the procedure appeared somewhat urgent, set just a day after Francis went to the hospital for tests. The pontiff's doctors no doubt also wanted to give him recovery time ahead of a busy summer travel schedule. The pope was suffering from a "painful and worsening" hernia that formed over a scar, presumably from his 2021 colon surgery. Experts said the hernia, called a laparocele, is a known complication from intestinal surgery. But part of his intestine has apparently now bulged through the area and become trapped.

As the AP reports, 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. "When the intestines are trapped, the blood supply to the bowel is compromised, and if you don't take care of it, the bowel will die and you will have gangrenous intestines," said Dr. Walter Longo, chief of colon and rectal surgery at Yale University School of Medicine. He said Francis should be OK after a few weeks of recovery, but he noted that the aging pope is already frail. "There's the risk of going through surgery, operating on a fragile individual, but if he can get through it, he will be fine," he said. Francis remains in charge of the Vatican and the 1.3-billion-strong Catholic Church, even while unconscious and in the hospital, according to canon law.

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In July 2021, Francis spent 10 days at Gemelli to remove 13 inches of his large intestine. In January, Francis said the bulges in his intestinal wall that prompted that surgery had returned. After that surgery, Francis lamented that he hadn't responded well to the general anesthetic used in the procedure. That reaction in part explained his refusal to have surgery to repair strained knee ligaments that have forced him to use a wheelchair and walker for over a year. Dr. Manish Chand, an associate professor of surgery at University College London who specializes in colorectal surgery, said the surgery is usually straightforward—but it does require general anesthesia. He said the greatest issue afterward would be pain management and making sure the wound heals properly. "In the first six weeks ... you're at risk of getting a recurrence," he said. Patients are advised not to do anything strenuous. (More Pope Francis stories.)

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