Gabrielle Giffords, the U.S. Congresswoman from Arizona who received a gunshot wound to the head at a public event on Saturday, is in critical condition following brain surgery, MSNBC reports. According to the article, though the full extent of the damage has yet to be determined, Giffords’ doctor at the University Medical Center in Tucson is “cautiously optimistic” about her chances for recovery.
“A single bullet traveled the length of her brain on the left side,” says MSNBC, “hitting an area that controls speech.” Today’s story goes on to explain that Giffords was put into an artificially-induced coma after surgery, but is being awakened at regular intervals to check on her recovery.
Despite the trauma of the bullet wound, Giffords was apparently able to respond to simple commands, such as holding up two fingers or squeezing the doctor’s hand, both before and after surgery, reports Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN. This shows evidence of her ability to hear, process, and successfully execute commands, he says, indicating “a higher level of brain function than simple reflexive movement.”</p.
According to Dr. Gupta, Giffords’ chances of recovery are relatively good. She was rushed into surgery only 38 minutes after the shooting, he says, allowing doctors to maintain the oxygen supply in her blood and keep her blood pressure from dropping. Additionally, the 40-year-old Congresswoman was in good health before the incident, reports Gupta.
In this case, the bullet did not cross the midline of Giffords’ brain, adding to her chances of survival, Gupta says. Additionally, the doctor explains that the bullet went completely through Giffords’ skull, allowing the energy propelling the bullet to be “dissipated into space, as opposed to all within her cranial cavity.”
Concerning Giffords’ emergency surgery, Gupta says that the doctors’ priorities included controlling the bleeding, as well as removing any stray bone fragments or dead tissue. The neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Lemole, also performed a craniectomy, which is a removal of portions of the skull to allow for the swelling of the brain during and after surgery, says the article. Significant additional trauma can result if the brain is not given room to expand.
Dr. Gupta cautions that giving statistics for recovery from brain injuries is difficult because “every patient is a true individual.” The extent of the neurological damage may not be known for days or weeks. However, he also reports that “people survive these types of injuries more often than you may think,” and takes Dr. Lemole’s stance of cautious optimism as a positive sign for Giffords’ recovery.
Sanjay Gupta. (January 10, 2011) “Gupta: What helped Giffords survive brain shot.” Retrieved on January 10, 2011 from CNN.
MSNBC Staff Writer. (January 10, 2011) “Giffords suspect due in court as nation mourns.” Retrieved on January 10, 2011 from MSNBC.