Spain's king leaves intensive care after back surgery

Spain's 75-year-old King Juan Carlos left intensive care Monday after undergoing lower back surgery at a Madrid hospital.

The king was discharged in the morning from the intensive care unit of the La Milagrosa hospital, where he will continue his recovery, the director of the hospital. Gaspar Palet, told reporters.

"Juan Carlos' progress during the night was really good and he was able to rest," he said.

The king underwent surgery at the hospital on Sunday to fix slipped discs and to fix a lumbar spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal canal narrows, causing back pain. It was his seventh operation in three years.

After the surgery, the neurosurgeon who carried out the procedure, Manuel de la Torre, told reporters it would take two to six months for the monarch to recover.

The king would likely remain in the hospital for around a week, he added.

Juan Carlos is widely respected for his role in steering Spain to democracy after the death of the dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975.

But over the past two years he has suffered health problems as well as rare scandals, including a corruption investigation targeting his son-in-law.

Juan Carlos has appeared on crutches over recent months after having both hips replaced in three operations last year.

The first of those came after he fell during an elephant-hunting holiday in Botswana.

Sympathy for his injury was overshadowed by popular anger over the luxury hunting trip, taken while Spaniards suffered in a deep recession.

The king had a benign tumour removed from a lung in May 2010. In 2011 he was given an artificial right knee and had a torn Achilles tendon repaired.

Despite his operations and opinion polls showing his popularity plunged last year, the king insisted in a televised interview last month that he had "energy and hope" to carry on his rule.