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 April 26, 2005
Surgical Procedure Helps Pope Breathe Easier
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Doctors performed a tracheotomy on Pope John Paul II to allow the 84-year-old pontiff, hospitalized with respiratory problems, to breathe easier, the Vatican confirmed late Thursday.

The procedure involved cutting a small hole in his throat and inserting a breathing tube. According to an Associated Press account, a Vatican statement said the procedure lasted about 30 minutes.

The pontiff will be spending the night in the hospital, a spokesman said, while outside medical experts said the tracheotomy could well require a longer stay.

Before the tracheotomy, which the pope approved, experts had said John Paul might have pneumonia. But a spokesman's statement made no reference to pneumonia, saying the pope suffered a narrowing of his larynx, the wire service reported.

John Paul's return to the hospital Thursday morning with fever and congestion probably was caused by new complications from the earlier bout with the flu or a flu-like illness, experts told the AP.

It's common for flu patients to acquire a bacterial infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis; it's also possible that the pope never had the flu, but another germ that caused flu-like symptoms, the experts said.

The pontiff, frail and already weakened from Parkinson's disease, showed signs of respiratory problems on Wednesday afternoon and was admitted to Rome's Gemelli hospital Thursday morning.

Experts said his Parkinson's condition and slumped posture would make it difficult for his lungs to rid themselves of pneumonia bacteria, in part by impairing his ability to cough, the AP reported.


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