January 11th, 2011
02:30 PM ET

Giffords in key period after brain injury

Elizabeth Landau

(CNN) - After surviving a gunshot wound to the head at a political event Saturday, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition, and Tuesday was seen as significant in her recovery.

The brain tends to swell the most on the third day after a traumatic injury, and it's a very good sign if she makes it past the third and fourth day, said Dr. Keith Black, chairman of the Cedars-Sinai Hospital Department of Neurosurgery in Los Angeles, who is not involved in treating Giffords.

She has a breathing tube to protect her lungs, but is generating her own breaths, said Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona, at a news conference Tuesday. Doctors say Giffords has been responsive to commands.

"It's simply asking her to raise fingers, to squeeze on their fingers. It's not at a point yet where they can ask her to talk, because she's still on a respirator. But the signs that she is conscious are manifesting and we're very excited," Mike McNulty, Giffords' campaign chairman and close friend, told CNN's John King on Monday.

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Kim

    Positive thoughts and prayers for 100% fast recovery.

    January 12, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  2. J.V.Hodgson

    Yes it is true the first 72 hours are critical and can minimise the effects of brain damage.
    However having had a wife who suffered a far less traumatic injury (apahsia = bleeding in to the left side of her brain) from one burst artery/vein in the brain. The results of that have been horrendous, loss of language skill, poor short term memory, reduced right side motor skills, and character/attitude changes along with severe depression.
    My point is I believe Gifford will probably live but the optimism about a full recovery is probably less than 1%. These reports are misleading a this time and show an unfounded optimism that could lead to severe family and relative disappointment.
    There are three truisms I had to face:-
    1) They do not know what the effects of the injury will be for many weeks. Brain swelling
    and Hydro cephulus expansion may need ( after 2/3months in my wifes case) a second operation.
    2) Every single brain trauma gives a different result for each patient.
    3)Whatever the care level, there will be some impairment, and they can fix risks but there is no cure or repair kit to the damage, physical re-hab can help but also is not always a realistic option.

    January 12, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  3. Annie Kate

    I hope Rep. Giffords makes a full recovery and has little to no lasting repercussions from this event. I am encouraged by the doctor's upbeat manner and their reports but know that it will still be some days before they have a true picture of what the overall damage will be. I hope overall the damage is limited and recoverable. As Bob Woodruff says, medicine has come a long way in the treatment of brain trauma and there is hope now where in years past there would have been none.

    January 11, 2011 at 9:05 pm |