Doctor: Giffords Has '101 Percent Chance' Of Surviving - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Doctor: Giffords Has '101 Percent Chance' Of Surviving

MSNBC - U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was breathing on her own and moving both arms after being shot in the head, doctors said Tuesday.

Giffords still has a breathing tube to prevent infections such as pneumonia, said her neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Lemole.

"I'm happy to say that she's holding her own," he said.

Giffords, a three-time Democrat, remained in critical condition at Tucson's University Medical Center since Saturday when she was shot during a meeting with constituents outside a grocery store. The attack killed six and injured 14 others. Six remained hospitalized.

Giffords previously raised two fingers with her left hand and gave a thumbs-up when responding to doctors' verbal commands.

Although her condition has remained virtually unchanged the past few days, doctors were hopeful.

"She has a 101 percent chance of surviving," said trauma chief Dr. Peter Rhee said. "She will not die. She does not have that permission from me."

Doctors initially thought the bullet entered the back of the skull and exited the front, but after reviewing X-rays and brain scans, two outside physicians brought in by Giffords' medical team now believe that Giffords was likely shot in the front of her head.

Giffords was lucky the bullet did not cross into both sides, or hemispheres, of the brain, which can leave lasting damage, her doctors have said.

Also, Giffords is breathing on her own, said Dr. Michael Lemole, the chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center in Tucson.

Lemole said at a news conference that the congresswoman is still following simple commands, although she remains on a breathing tube to protect against complications such as pneumonia. She's alert and responding to doctors.

Earlier Tuesday Lemole told TODAY there were no significant changes in her condition overnight. "As frustrating as that may sound, that's a good thing," Lemole said.

When asked about swelling in her brain on the third day, Lemole said a CAT scan early Tuesday showed no increase in swelling, although he cautioned that it can sometimes take longer for the condition to peak. Nearly half of Giffords' skull was removed to alleviate any swelling.

She has given a thumbs-up sign and tried to grab at the breathing tube, an encouraging sign of the level of consciousness and her reaction to pain.

"The fact that she's able to register that discomfort and then react to it, again, it means the brain is working on a higher level," Lemole said.

Without speculating on the congresswoman's long-term prognosis, Lemole said she has the "full range" of recovery ahead of her.

"I've seen people in this scenario make very little improvement and require constant care, and I've seen other people ... who have made remarkable recoveries -- functional recoveries -- and gone back to work," Lemole said. People who suffer penetrating traumatic brain injuries often develop paralysis and cognitive problems.

Usually with a penetrating injury through the skull, survival and recovery is "abysmal," said Lemole at the news conference. "She has no right to look this good."

Giffords is expected to remain in the ICU for at least another week.

Giffords, a three-term Democrat, was shot at point-blank range on Saturday at a public gathering in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, Ariz. The shooting rampage claimed the lives of six people, including a congressional aide and a nine-year-old girl. Fourteen people were wounded or injured. Two people were discharged Sunday night. Six victims remain hospitalized. Lemole said the other patients are doing "very well." Three of the shooting victims remain in serious condition, two are in fair condition. Only Giffords remains in critical condition.

About 1.7 million people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injuries every year, with about 20 percent of them caused by violence, including gunshots. About 52,000 people die as a result of their injuries and about 275,000 are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the deaths caused by traumatic brain injury, perhaps 35 percent to 40 percent are attributed to gunshots.

The alleged shooter Jared Loughner made his first court appearance Monday on federal charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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