ROME (AP) — Pope Francis woke up Thursday after a good first night in the hospital after a three-hour operation to remove intestinal scar tissue and repair a hernia in his abdominal wall, problems that developed at following previous surgeries.
“The night went well,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement Thursday morning, adding that further updates would be released later.
Dr Sergio Alfieri, director of abdominal and endocrine sciences at Gemelli Hospital in Rome, said Wednesday’s operation was successful and no complications or other pathologies were found. Alfieri, who also removed part of Francis’ colon in 2021, told an evening press conference that the pope was awake, alert and even joking.
“When are we going to do the third?” he quoted Francis as saying.
The pontiff was due to stay in the 10th floor papal suite at Gemelli for several days, and all papal audiences have been canceled until June 18. The Vatican was expected to provide a medical update later Thursday.
The operation was scheduled after Francis complained of increasing pain and intestinal blockages. After traveling to Gemelli on Tuesday for checks, Francis was admitted after his general hearing on Wednesday and underwent the procedure shortly thereafter.
The surgery was likely scheduled now to give Francis enough time to recuperate before embarking on a planned trip later this summer: an Aug. 2-6 trip to Portugal for World Youth Day, and a trip from August 31 to September 31. 4 trip to Mongolia.
During the operation, doctors removed adhesions, or internal scars, on the intestine that had caused a partial blockage. Alfieri revealed that in addition to the 2021 colon surgery, Francis already had abdominal surgeries before 2013 in his native Argentina which 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 did not suffer from any other pathology, that the removed tissue was benign and that after recovery he should be fine.
A dreaded protrusion, or bowel bulge through the hernia tear, was apparently not found.
“It looks like they operated on him in a timely manner without compromising his bowel,” said Dr. Walter Longo, chief of colon and rectum surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. the surgery and commented after consulting the Vatican statement on the procedure.
Francis remained in charge of the Vatican and the 1.3 billion strong Catholic Church, even unconscious and in hospital, according to canon law.
In July 2021, Francis spent 10 days at Gemelli to remove 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his large intestine. In an interview with The Associated Press in January, Francis said diverticulosis, or bulges in his intestinal wall, which caused him to return from surgery.
After this operation, Francis lamented that he did not respond well to general anesthesia. This reaction partly explains his refusal to undergo surgery to repair the strained knee ligaments that forced him to use a wheelchair and a walker for more than a year.
However, Alfieri said Francis had no clinically adverse reactions to anesthesia in 2021 or on Wednesday.
“Obviously nobody likes to be operated on and put to sleep because as soon as we’re asleep we pass out,” he said. “But there was no physiological problem two years ago or today.”
Dr Manish Chand, a professor of surgery at University College London who specializes in colorectal surgery, said the biggest issue going forward will be pain management and proper wound healing.
“Within the first six weeks after this type of surgery, you are at risk of having a recurrence again,” he said. To avoid this, patients are advised not to do anything strenuous.