Doctors: Testing Giffords’ brain

Trauma surgeon espouses optimism, but it will take time to learn the full extent of her injuries

Topics: Gabrielle Giffords, Terrorism,

Doctors: Testing Giffords' brainEmergency personnel use a stretcher to carry a shooting victim to a helicopter outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and others were shot as the congresswoman was meeting with constituents. (AP Photo/KGUN9-TV) MANDATORY CREDIT KGUN9-TV(Credit: AP)

Doctors say they are optimistic about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ odds. But it can take weeks to months to learn the level of brain damage she might suffer from the gunshot blast to the head on Saturday.

Dr. Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon in Tucson where she was shot, said the bullet traveled the length of the left side of the Arizona congresswoman’s brain, from back to front. That offers a better outlook than if it had entered the brain’s center or both sides of the brain.

She is also responding nonverbally to commands from doctors, another good sign. Dr. Michael Lemole, her neurosurgeon, said that implies “a very high level of functioning.” For now, Giffords is in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator so she cannot speak.

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