Doctors Looking Toward Third Phase of Rep. Giffords' Recovery — Rehabilitation

Doctors Looking Toward Third Phase of Rep. Giffords' Recovery — Rehabilitation

University Medical Center (UMC) doctors continued to sound optimistic about the recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) today, though none has speculated on how complete that recovery ultimately will be.

Dr. Rainer Gruessner, chairman of UMC’s surgery department, began by reviewing the three phases of treatment: resuscitating, restoring, and rehabilitating. Following Saturday’s surgery where her ventilator was replaced with a tracheotomy tube and surgeons repaired “orbital roof fractures” of her right eye, the doctors said that the next milestone would be her release from the hospital into a rehabilitation facility. That could be days or weeks away, they said.

Responding to questions, Dr. Randy Friese, associate medical director, and Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery, gave the following update: they think she may be able to see, but a detailed opthalmologic examination has not been performed; she cannot speak yet because the tracheotomy tube they emplaced does not allow air to pass her vocal cords and she has not tried to speak; and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, told them that he thinks he saw her smile. Dr. Friese also cautioned that there always is a risk of infection after surgery and she just had surgery on Saturday, but overall he painted an optimistic outlook for her release into a rehabilitation facility, the third phase of her treatment.

Dr. Grussener ended the press conference by stressing that they cannot speculate about the future.

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