Giffords Undergoes Successful Operation To Repair Eye Socket


The congresswoman wounded in the January 8 mass shooting in Arizona underwent a successful procedure Saturday to repair a fracture in the roof of her right eye socket, doctors said Monday.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords tolerated the two-hour, minor operation well, and is ""back at that same baseline where she was before surgery,"" said Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center.

The operation was necessary, he said, because bone fragments were pushing down on Giffords' eye. When she arrived at the hospital shortly after the shooting, doctors did a quick operation but ""did not want to do the full repair"" because she was in critical condition.

The operation involved opening a window in Giffords' skull through an incision over her eyebrow, removing the rim of her eye socket, removing the bone fragments and then reconstructing the socket with the help of metal mesh, doctors said. She will need another skull repair surgery, but that will be done later.

Asked when Giffords might be released from the hospital and into a rehabilitation center, Lemole said it could be as soon as ""days to weeks.""Doctors also took a breathing tube out of Giffords' nose, but inserted a second one into her neck. That tube does not allow her to get air past her vocal cords, meaning she cannot talk, said trauma surgeon Dr. Randall Friese. It can be switched out later with a tube that will allow her to speak, he said. Giffords could mouth words ""when she's ready to do that,"" he said.

A feeding tube also was inserted, doctors said.

Asked about a report that Giffords gave her husband, Mark Kelly, a neck rub, Lemole said, ""there's a lot of inference there"" but said ""it does imply that she's recognizing him."" Doctors do not know whether she can see out of both eyes, he said, as that is pending a detailed examination."