Pope Francis was “in good general condition, alert” and breathing alone on Monday, the Vatican said a day after the pontiff underwent a three-hour operation that involved removing half of his colon.
Francis, 84, is expected to stay at the Gemelli polyclinic in Rome, which has a special suite reserved for popes, for about seven days, assuming there are no complications, the spokesperson for the Vatican, Matteo Bruni.
The Vatican gave few details on the procedure, but an Italian newspaper reported, without citing sources, that surgeons started the operation laparoscopically but ended up operating with larger incisions after encountering unspecified complications. .
Monday’s brief medical bulletin – which arrived more than 12 hours after the operation ended on Sunday and contained the first details from the Vatican – did not mention any of these complications. The Holy See said the Pope needed the procedure due to a narrowing of part of his large intestine which doctors say can be quite painful.
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When the Vatican announced Sunday afternoon that Francis had been admitted to hospital, it said the operation had been planned.
“His Holy Father is in good condition, alert and breathing spontaneously,” Bruni said in a written statement, adding that the operation had lasted about three hours.
The procedure usually involves removing the left side of the colon and then joining the remaining healthy parts of the large intestine. But the Vatican did not specify.
Doctors have said that a risk of the operation is that the connection between the joined parts of the colon can sometimes fail, causing more pain and possibly infection. Such failure is very rare but would require further surgery.
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Without citing any sources or specifying what happened, the Roman daily Il Messaggero reported that “complications” arose during the operation. The newspaper said this led surgeons to switch from laparoscopic work to operation through a larger incision.
Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure often referred to as “keyhole surgery” which usually allows surgeons to access with very small incisions. In the type of surgery the Vatican has had, laparoscopy is commonly used, experts said.
Patients who have undergone laparoscopic surgery generally require shorter hospital stays.
Before the publication of the Vatican bulletin, Cardinal Enrico Feroci said he had heard from another cardinal, Angelo De Donatis, that the Pope was fine.
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“He told me that the Pope was fine,” Feroci said, quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA. De Donatis is the vicar of the diocese of Rome.
Messages of recovery continued to pour in for the Pope. The office of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said he “expresses affectionate wishes for a speedy recovery and a speedy recovery”.
Italian state television said that among those praying for Francis was his sick predecessor in the papacy, Benedict XVI, who has led a life of prayer and meditation in a monastery on the Vatican grounds since his retirement in 2013, affirming that he did not have the strength to adequately perform the papal duties. The TV report quoted the Pontiff Emeritus’ personal secretary as saying that Francis was in Benedict’s prayers.
Francis stays in a special suite on the 10th floor that the hospital keeps at the disposal of a pontiff, after Pope John Paul II has stayed there several times for various medical problems.
It was not known when the Vatican might issue a new medical update.
Francis’ next routine date with the public would normally be on Sunday July 11, when he usually appears at a window facing St. Peter’s Square and blesses the faithful below and speaks for a few minutes, often on current events.
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If he was still hospitalized at that time, Francis could choose, if he felt well, to do what one of his predecessors did during his convalescence at the Gemelli polyclinic. Saint John Paul II, during some of his multiple stays in hospital, appeared at his bedroom window to greet and bless the supporters gathered outside.
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