What Is Symptomatic Diverticular Stenosis? Pope Francis in Hospital After Colon Surgery

The pope is in hospital after he "reacted well" to planned intestinal surgery on Sunday, according to a Holy See spokesman.

Matteo Bruni told the Associated Press Pope Francis, 84, had surgery for diverticular stenosis of the sigmoid section of his colon. He was recovering in a suite of the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic hospital in Rome reserved for popes. It is not clear how long the pope will stay there.

Bruni said there was a four-person surgical team present at the procedure, plus a four-person anesthesiologist team.

The Holy See said in a press release that Francis was admitted to the hospital to undergo surgery for "a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon."

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said he was wishing for "a good convalescence and even a speedier recovery" for the pope, the Associated Press reported.

The pope made no mention of his surgery, which was upcoming at the time, at a traditional appearance in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.

What is symptomatic diverticular stenosis?

"Stenosis" refers to a narrowing of the intestine, and "diverticular" means a disease related to diverticula, the name given to bulges or sacs that form from the wall of the large intestine. Diverticula are common, especially after the age of 40, and tend not to cause problems.

It is thought that around 5 percent of people have diverticula by the time they are 40, while at least half have them by the time they are 80.

Diverticula are associated with aging as the large intestine becomes weaker over time. Bulges can form when the intestine is exposed to pressure.

When diverticula are found in the digestive system, the condition is called diverticulosis. Most people with diverticulosis won't have symptoms. Symptoms may include lower abdominal pain and feeling bloated.

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons states that people are advised to limit red meat and eat a high-fiber diet with fruits and vegetables to prevent diverticulosis.

If the diverticula become inflamed or infected, this is known as diverticulitis. This can cause abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and other symptoms.

Diverticulitis can be treated with antibiotics, though doctors may also perform surgery in some cases.

The Mayo Clinic states that as well as a high-fiber diet, regular exercise can help prevent diverticulitis by promoting normal bowel function and reducing pressure inside the colon.

It also advises people to drink plenty of fluids, which fiber can absorb, and avoid smoking, which is associated with an increased risk of diverticulitis.

Pope Francis waving
Pope Francis pictured waving during a tour of Thailand in November, 2019. A Holy See spokesman said the pope reacted well to his surgery. Lauren DeCicca/Getty