Local Neurosurgeon Discusses Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Injury | NBC Connecticut

Local Neurosurgeon Discusses Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Injury

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    TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 2: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) speaks on election night at Democratic Election Headquarters as her husband Mark Kelly (L) looks on at the Tucson Marriott University Park ballroom November 2, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. Giffords was named the winner in her close race with Republican challenger Jesse Kelly several days later. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head at a public event entitled 'Congress on your Corner' when a gunman opened fire outside a Safeway grocery store January 8, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. It was reported that eighteen people were shot, including members of Giffords' staff, and six were killed, including one young child.

    Most people do not survive a gunshot wound to the head, and the fact that Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has is a good sign, a Hartford neurosurgeon said.

    About 90 percent of this type of injury prove to be fatal, doctors said, but physicians treating Giffords have said that she has been responding to commands, non-verbally.

    "It is very significant at this point," said Dr. Steven Calderone, a neurosurgeon at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford,

    Calderone, who has more than 20 years of experience, said the fact that the bullet stayed on one side of the brain -- the left side -- helped Giffords survive.

    "The trajectory of the bullet, the caliber of the bullet and weapon that fires it plays a great role in whether or not a patient survives," Calderone said.

    The doctor said the left side of the brain controls the ability to speak and to understand speech, but the next 48 to 72 hours is critical.

    "If they're able to keep the swelling under control, then she should stand a good chance of maintaining that ability to speak, follow commands and move extremities," Calderone said.

    It's not necessarily technology that's helps people recover from these types of traumatic injuries, he said. Doctors have learned new skills from the military to help save lives.

    "As a precaution, they removed the left side of her skull to allow more room in case swelling did occur and that's something that's been done with more frequency in the last decade or two," Calderone said.

    Calderone, who has treated these types of injuries, said even if Giffords does come through, the rehab process could take months if not years.