BY NICOLE WINFIELD
ROM (AP) – Pope Francis’ recovery from bowel surgery continues to be “regular and satisfactory,” the Vatican said Wednesday when it revealed that final examinations revealed that he had suffered “severe” constriction of his colon.
The Vatican’s daily update showed that an examination of the tissue taken from Francis’ colon on Sunday found no evidence of cancer. Doctors said this was a good sign and proof that suspicions of narrowing of the colon due to inflammation and scarring had been confirmed.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the 84-year-old pope continued to eat regularly after surgery on Sunday to remove half of his colon and intravenous therapy had been suspended.
“The fact that he is eating means that his intestinal tract is working the way it should,” said Dr. Walter E. Longo, professor of surgery and colon and rectal surgery at Yale University School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Health, who is not involved in Francis’ care. “By stopping the infusion therapy, the amount of fluids he needs to maintain his daily functions is now covered by his oral intake.”
Bruni said the final examination of the affected tissue “confirmed severe diverticulum stenosis with signs of sclerosing diverticulitis” or hardening of the sacs that can sometimes form in the lining of the intestines.
Dr. Manish Chand, an associate professor of surgery at University College London who specializes in colorectal surgery, said the hardening of the tissues occurred as a result of repeated inflammation and infection, resulting in scars that made the colon less elastic.
He said there was always a concern in such cases that it might be a small cancer that hadn’t been seen on previous imaging. In such cases, pathologists put a sample of the removed tissue under a microscope to see if cancer cells were present.
“It’s comforting to hear that there is no underlying tumor and the diagnosis of diverticular disease has been confirmed,” said Chand, who was also not involved in Francis’ care.
Francis underwent scheduled surgery for three hours on Sunday. He is expected to stay at Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic, which has a special suite for popes, all week, provided there are no complications, the Vatican said.
Among those wishing for wellbeing was US President Joe Biden, a Catholic who has quoted Francis in the past. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a daily briefing Tuesday the president wished him “a well and a speedy recovery.”
“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages and affection that we have received during these days and thanks him for the closeness and prayer,” says Bruni’s statement.
Francis enjoys relatively robust health, although he lost the top of a lung to an infection in his youth. He also suffers from sciatica, or nerve pain, which makes him walk with a pronounced limp.
The Vatican has continued normal operations in his absence, although July is traditionally a month when the Pope cancels public and private audiences. For example, there was no weekly general audience on Wednesday, but previously the month-long suspension of the Pope’s weekly catechism classes had been announced.