Pope undergoes surgery to assist breathing

 Pope John Paul II underwent a tracheotomy operation last night, to help him breath. A Vatican spokesman said the procedure was successful. The operation, usually undertaken when a throat obstruction is making breathing difficult, involves making a hole in the windpipe through which a tube is inserted to assist breathing. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the tracheotomy, usually performed under general anaesthesia, was completed in "a positive way" and lasted 30 minutes. The Pope, who gave his consent for the operation, will spend the night in his hospital room, Mr Navarro-Valls added. Medical experts say the operation is routine, but will make it more difficult for the Pope to talk. Until his relapse yesterday, Pope John Paul seemed to have recovered well from a bout of flu-related throat spasms earlier this month. He returned from his ten-day stay in the Gemelli Hospital on 10 February and had begun to take up his official duties. An official medical bulletin on his condition is expected on Friday morning. Source: VIS/BBC