Updated June 7, 2023 at 1:05 PM ET

Pope Francis underwent abdominal surgery Wednesday afternoon after being admitted to A. Gemelli University Hospital in Rome, according to the Vatican. He is expected to remain in the hospital for several days as he recovers.

The procedure "took place without complications and lasted three hours," the Vatican announced. As a precaution, all of the pontiff's audiences are canceled through June 18.

Francis, 86, recently celebrated 10 years of leading Catholics around the world.

The pope underwent "a laparotomy and abdominal wall surgery under general anesthesia," according to Vatican News, the Holy See's official news portal. Laparotomy is a term that refers to open abdominal surgery.

Francis had followed his normal Wednesday routine before heading to the hospital, including holding a general audience at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, where he addressed a large crowd.

The pope used a cane to walk during parts of that appearance, but he also used a wheelchair as the event came to an end, greeting admirers and the faithful as he was taken to the popemobile.

The decision to operate was made after the pope complained of abdominal pain and was examined by his medical team and doctors at Gemelli Hospital, which Francis also visited on Tuesday.

Surgery was deemed necessary "due to an incisional laparocele (hernia) that is causing recurrent, painful and worsening sub-occlusive syndromes," the Vatican's news office said.

An incisional laparocele is a type of hernia, a fairly common complication affecting scar tissue after abdominal surgery. The term subocclusive syndrome refers to intestinal blockage.

Nearly two years ago, Francis had abdominal surgery to remove half of his colon. That treatment resulted in a 10-day hospital stay for the pope, who later identified the use of general anesthesia as a source of discomfort for him. Wednesday's surgery also entailed general anesthesia.

The pope spent four days in Gemelli Hospital earlier this spring, when he was treated for respiratory problems stemming from bronchitis. Francis' latest hospital stay comes about one month before he's scheduled to travel to Portugal for a five-day visit to commemorate World Youth Day.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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