'Better than before': Pope Francis leaves hospital after surgery

Pope Francis leaving a hospital in Rome, nine days after undergoing abdominal surgery. Credit: AP

Pope Francis has been discharged from a hospital in Rome nine days after a three-hour abdominal operation.

The 86-year-old had been taken to hospital to repair a hernia and remove painful scarring.

Leaving the Gemelli Polyclinic's main exit in a wheelchair, the pontiff smiled and waved at the crowd before standing up to get into a small Vatican car waiting for him.

"The pope is well. He's better than before,'' Dr Sergio Alfieri, the surgeon who did the three-hour operation told reporters as the pope was driven away.

Following the surgery, Francis will be a "strong pope,'' Dr Alfieri said.

Pope Francis leaves the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic in Rome. Credit: AP

Hours after the surgery, Alfieri said the scarring, which had resulted from previous abdominal surgeries, had been increasingly causing the pope pain.

There was also risk of an intestinal blockage, if adhesions, or scar tissue, weren’t removed, according to the doctors.

Right after the surgery, the Vatican said all of the pope’s audiences would be cancelled through to June 18.

Among the high-profile appointments Francis is expected to have next week at the Vatican are audiences with the presidents of Cuba and Brazil, although the meetings haven't been officially announced yet by the Vatican.

In just under two years, Francis had been hospitalised three times at Gemelli Polyclinic.

In July 2021, he underwent surgery to remove a 33-centimeter (13-inch) section of his bowel removed because of narrowing of his intestinal.

That, as well as abdominal surgeries years back in his native Argentina before he became pontiff, had contributed to the painful scarring, according to Alfieri.

Then in early spring of this year, Francis was back in the hospital to receive intravenous antibiotic treatment for bronchitis, an illness Francis later said caused him pain and fever.

As a young man in his native Argentina, Francis had a portion of one lung removed following infection.

The latest hospitalisation came just as Francis seemed to be walking better, with the aid of a cane, following months of often using a wheelchair because of a painful knee problem.

He also has suffered from sciatica, a painful inflammation of a nerve that runs down from back to leg.

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