Daily Archives: January 10, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords in Medically Induced Coma to Help Brain Rest

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

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Jan 9 (KATAKAMI / ABC News) — Doctors say that while the bullet that struck Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords did not hit any critical parts of the brain, whether she will survive and how fully she will recover are still unknown.

“This was a devastating wound that traveled the length of the brain on the left side,” Dr. Peter Rhee, trauma director at University Medical Center in Tucson, said during a press conference. Giffords’ family confirmed to ABC affiliate KTRK that the bullet entered the back of her head and exited through her forehead.

Giffords is currently in a medically induced coma that doctors say will help her brain rest. She had surgery to stop the bleeding and help control swelling on the left side of the brain. Doctors also had to decompress her eyes. Eyelids often swell when there is trauma to the brain.

“Brain swelling is the biggest threat at this point,” said Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of the the division of neurosurgery at the University of Arizona. To help control swelling, part of Giffords skull was removed and will be reimplanted, possibly in a few months.

Giffords was awakened periodically and she has made nonverbal responses to simple commands, but Rhee said she has not spoken because she is on a ventilator.

Lemole said Giffords was able to squeeze a doctor’s hand and hold up fingers when asked, and these responses are good signs.

“We take them for granted, but they [represent] a high level of function,” he said.

Next Days Crucial to Recovery

The next few days and weeks will be critical to determine how much brain function Giffords has lost, if any. Doctors will keep an especially close eye on the level of brain swelling and also on her ability to recover speech and movement on the right side of her body, which are controlled by the left side of the brain.

“If we do run into trouble in the next few days, we can use medical agents to dry out the brain,” said Rhee. “We can put a tube into the center of the brain to relieve the pressure, but she looks good now.”

In addition to swelling, the risks to Giffords include “CSF [cerebrospinal fluid] leakage through the entry and exit wounds, cerebral artery spasm [vasospasm], seizures, and meningitis or brain abscess,” said Dr. Neil Martin, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles.

Quick Response Helped Gabrielle Giffords After Gunshot

While the worst isn’t yet over for Giffords, a number of factors played a role in her survival thus far. Rhee and Lemole said she benefited from an outstanding response from the medical team who treated her and the fact that they were able to preserve a lot of her brain tissue before the surgery.

Her chances of survival and recovery would be much worse if the bullet had passed through both parts of the brain or hit vital parts.

“Crossing both halves of the brain, involving more lobes of the brain, traversing the fluid-filled spaces of the brain, or injuring the major blood vessels at the base of the brain are all indicators of a worse prognosis,” said Dr. Atif Haque, a neurosurgeon at the Fort Worth Brain & Spine Institute. “Crossing the ‘geographic’ center of the brain is essentially non-survivable.”

Over the next few months, doctors hope to get a better idea of her cognitive deficits. Her recovery could take years, and she could be in the hospital for several months.

“The faster your recovery, the better your recovery will be. That’s a general rule of thumb,” said Lemole.

Rhee said he is optimistic based on what he has seen so far.

“When you get shot through the head and the bullet goes through your brain, the chance of your living is very small and the chance of you waking up and following commands is small.”  (*)



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REMARKS: Speaker Boehner Addresses Tragic Shooting in Arizona

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) speaks about the shooting in Arizona during a news conference in West Chester, Ohio, January 9, 2011. A gunman shot U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, seriously wounding her, and killed six other people in a shooting rampage at a public meeting in Tucson on Saturday. REUTERS/Jay LaPrete

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WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 9 (KATAKAMI / SPEAKER.GOV) — Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) made the following remarks from West Chester, Ohio this morning regarding the tragic shooting in Arizona:

“Good morning. The thoughts and prayers of the House and the nation are with Congresswoman Giffords and her family. We’re also praying for the families of Judge Roll and all of those who were taken from us yesterday so senselessly. Among the fallen is Gabe Zimmerman, a member of Congresswoman Giffords’ staff, and I’ve directed that the flags on the House side of the Capitol be flown at half mast in honor of Gabe’s death in the line of duty.

“An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Such acts of violence have no place in our society. I want to commend the federal, state and local officials, as well as the Capitol Police, for all of their efforts. And I’ve told the FBI Director that the House stands ready to assist in any way possible.

“Last night, the Majority Leader announced that the normal business of the House in the coming week has been postponed so that we can take necessary action regarding yesterday’s events. The Majority Leader will announce a revised schedule.

“To the members of the House and their staffs, I ask that you on this Sabbath day that we keep Gabby and her staff in our thoughts and prayers. Public service is a high honor, but these tragic events remind us that all of us in our roles in service to our fellow citizens comes with a risk. This inhuman act should not and will not deter us from our calling to represent our constituents and to fulfill our oaths of office. No act, no matter how heinous, must be allowed to stop us from our duty.”  (*)

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