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Factbox-Pope Francis has long history of health problems

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ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis was admitted to a Rome hospital for an operation on his abdomen on Wednesday, the latest in a number of health problems for the 86-year-old pontiff.

Here are some of the medical issues Francis has had to overcome.

COLON AND ABDOMEN

The Vatican said on Wednesday the pope needed an operation to repair a laparocele, a hernia that sometimes forms over a scar, usually resulting from surgery. It can also be caused by obesity or weakness of the abdominal wall muscles. A statement said his medical team had decided that surgery, which will take place under a general anaesthetic, was required because the condition was causing painful intestinal occlusions.

In July 2021, the pope had 33 cm (13 inches) of his colon removed in a six-hour operation that was aimed at addressing a painful bowel condition called diverticulitis. He said earlier this year that the condition had returned.

In an interview with Reuters last year, he dismissed as “court gossip” rumours that cancer had been found during the 2021 surgery.

LUNG AND RESPIRATORY TRACT

When he was 21, the then Jorge Bergoglio developed pleurisy and had part of one of his lungs removed in Argentina.

In March this year, the pope was taken to hospital after complaining that he had difficulty breathing. He recovered swiftly after receiving antibiotics for bronchitis. In April, his doctors told him to miss an outdoor Good Friday service because of cold weather in Rome.

He skipped audiences for a day last month due to a fever.

BACK AND KNEE

The pope has long suffered from sciatica, a chronic nerve condition that causes back, hip and leg pain. A flare-up of the ailment caused the pope to miss New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day services in December 2020, the first time health problems had caused him to miss major religious events.

He also developed a separate, painful knee problem, but told Reuters last July he opted against surgery because he did not want a repeat of long-term negative side effects from anaesthesia that he suffered from the 2021 colon operation. Instead, he has looked to overcome the problem with laser and magnet therapy.

In 2022, he was forced to cancel trips to Lebanon, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan because of his walking problems. He rescheduled the Africa trip and went to both countries earlier this year.

The pope now uses a wheelchair or a cane and his waistline has noticeably increased due to a more sedentary lifestyle in the Vatican.

MENTAL HEALTH

Pope Francis said in 2021 he saw a psychiatrist in his native Argentina when he was a young priest who helped him deal with anxiety during the time of the military dictatorship. He said he had learnt to deal with the problem through various mechanisms, including listening to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; editing by Philip Pullella and Janet Lawrence)

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