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Gabrielle Giffords Shot: How She Survived (VIDEO)

First Posted: 01/11/11 08:28 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:25 PM ET

The statistics are bleak: Ninety percent of gunshot wounds to the head result in death -- two-thirds of the time before the victim ever reaches a hospital. So how did Rep. Gabrielle Giffords survive?

A big part of the reason is where the bullet entered the head. The bullet entered from the back-left portion of the brain and exited through the front-left portion, missing many of the brain's critical structures as well as some major blood vessels. "These critical structures were miraculously spared," said Jennifer Ashton M.D., medical correspondent for CBS News. Had the bullet crossed from the left to the right side of the brain, the outcome likely would have been very different.

Rep. Giffords was taken to the emergency room at Arizona's University Medical Center shortly after the the shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona on January 8. Doctors performed decompressive craniotomy, a neurological procedure which removes a large portion of the skull so that the brain may have room to swell without risk of further damage.

Doctors are encouraged by Giffords' response to simple commands, such as showing her two fingers when asked to do so. Still, the Congresswoman could face serious challenges regarding her ability to speak in the future, said Ashton. "Interpreting speech and being able to speak could potentially be effected by an injury on the left side of the brain."


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Filed by Nicholas Miriello  |