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Doctors Repaired Fracture in Giffords’ Eye Socket

Doctors caring for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords performed surgery Saturday to repair a fracture in the roof of the Arizona Democrat’s right eye socket, they said Monday in an update on her condition.

The team at University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., announced Saturday that it had removed Giffords, 40, from a ventilator and inserted a tracheotomy tube to allow her to breathe more comfortably on her own. They also reported that she was given a feeding tube, but they did not announce the surgery to repair her eye socket. The procedures took place during the same operation.

Giffords’ condition was upgraded to serious from critical on Sunday because she had been successfully removed from the ventilator, the hospital announced that evening.

Dr. Michael Lemole, the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery, described the repair work Monday. Giffords sustained fractures in the roofs of both eye sockets, but only the one on the right needed to be repaired, he said.

Giffords was shot once in the head on Jan. 8 during an attack in Tucson. Doctors initially took measures to release some of the pressure from bone fragments, but they delayed the full repair by a week to avoid exacerbating swelling in her brain, Lemole said. 

The procedure required doctors to cut a window into her skull, known as a craniotomy, which they closed with metal mesh, Lemole said.

The neurosurgeon was pleased with Giffords’ progress since the surgery, saying that she returned over the weekend to the same level of interaction she had reached before the procedure.

“At this time, we’re hoping to continue tying up those loose ends and get her ready for that third phase of her care, the rehabilitation,” Lemole said.

Dr. Rainer Gruessner, chief of the University of Arizona’s surgery department, described the procedure as minor. He said it lasted about two hours.

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