The Vatican

Can Pope Francis Serve With Only One Lung?

Can Pope Francis Serve With Only One Lung? Newly elected Pope Francis has already broken new ground in the world of Roman Catholic leadership: the first pontiff from Latin America, the first taking his name from Francis of Assisi, and medically, the first to have had part of his lung resected when much younger for what is believed to have been a fungal infection.

Initial reports, later corrected, suggested that Pope Francis had an entire resection of one of his two lungs. Without a full complement of lung, can the new Pope be up to the rigors of leadership?

In terms of lung function, absolutely. We are given so much reserve lung function in life, that losing up to half of your lungs to surgery or a disease process such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD ) can be well tolerated and still allow for a long and active life.

Particularly in a non-smoker or without prior lung disease, losing part of your lungs might never be noticeable long-term except for a scar on your chest, and moderate exercise is just fine and probably desirable.

And if Pope Francis chooses to give short sermons as well, it won’t be because he doesn’t have the breath to be long-winded.

To learn more about Pope Francis’ lung resection, you can read this article from TIME.

About the author

Dr. Mark Millard
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Mark Millard, MD, is a pulmonologist and medical director at the Martha Foster Lung Care Center. Dr. Millard developed the "Rules of Two®" to help determine if your asthma is under control. Get to know Dr. Millard.

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Can Pope Francis Serve With Only One Lung?