Tuesday, January 11, 2011

UA's Medical Center credited with saving Giffords

Photo courtesy UA News
Dr. Peter Rhee, right, speaks about Gabrielle Giffords' condition as Dr. G. Michael Lemole, Jr., looks on Sunday at University Medical Center in Tucson. 

By Arizona Health Sciences Center

January 9, 2011 - The response of the entire University Medical Center staff is credited for the life-saving care of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other patients who are hospitalized at the Trauma Center at UMC following the shooting tragedy on Jan. 8.

Dr. Rainer Gruessner, head of the University of Arizona department of surgery, praised the great work of the trauma team at UMC and the UA in Tucson for the rapid efforts that preserved as much life as possible

Dr. Peter Rhee, medical director of UMC's Trauma and Critical Care and professor of surgery at the UA College of Medicine department of surgery, said the team dealt rapidly with a mass-casualty scenario. Today Giffords remains in critical condition and is continuing to recover and is still on a ventilator.

Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr., a leading authority on skull base surgery and section chief of neurosurgery at the UA department of surgery, performed surgery on Giffords with Dr. Martin Weinand, professor of surgery in the neurosurgery section.

Lemole described the sequence of events that helped create the circumstances that resulted in the "cautiously optimistic" outlook of UMC physicians. Giffords was shot in the left side of her head, was responsive to voice commands and was in the operating room within 38 minutes.

The medical team was able to control her breathing and remove pressure in the brain.

"Gabrielle Giffords can follow simple commands this morning, but we know that brain swelling can take a turn, so we remain cautiously optimistic," said Lemole. He described simple commands as: "can you open your eyes" or "can you raise two fingers." While these seem like simple tasks, these tell doctors much about her condition.

Rhee added that the medical team lightened anesthesia during this morning's examination of Giffords and are encouraged with her progress.

Lemole described techniques used to minimize damage due to swelling of damaged brain tissue. Surgeons removed part of Giffords' skull and are preserving it until swelling subsides and it can be replaced.

Rhee praised the work of paramedics and the emergency response teams who transported Giffords quickly with minimal intervention. The fast response of the entire trauma team is the reason she was in the operating room so quickly.

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