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While Doctors Are Optimistic, Prognosis for Wounded Congresswoman Is Unclear
Date:1/10/2011

According to Langer, 90 percent of people with gunshot wounds to the head die.

"This sounds like a relatively mild form of a gunshot wound and that does happen, based on the trajectory," Langer explained. "Certainly she has the opportunity to be as best as she can, given the aggressiveness of what [her doctors] have done. She has a chance of making a good recovery, but good has a lot of different meanings."

News reports say the bullet entered the back left of Giffords' brain and exited in the front, staying its course only on the left side of the brain.

"The back of the brain is the occipital and that controls the right side of your vision," said Dr. Anders Cohen, chief of neurosurgery and spine surgery at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "I would say it's highly likely, if it entered the left occipital, she's going to have some vision impairment."

Beyond that, a great deal depends on the exact trajectory of the bullet, which isn't yet clear to those outside Giffords' operating room.

"Did it exit from the front or from the side? If it went all the way through, that would be her personality, her reasoning [assuming Rep. Giffords is right-handed]. That part of the brain is you," Cohen said. "The brain is real estate. It's all location, location, location. It depends on which part of the brain gets injured."

Giffords' doctors are already reporting that she is able to follow simple instructions, which might include asking her to raise two fingers, Cohen said. That's a positive sign.

"If the bullet had gone through the front, she wouldn't be following commands," Cohen added.

Giffords is being kept in a medically induced coma, which is deep sedation that allows the brain to rest. The coma requires a ventilator, so she can't speak. Doctors periodically lift her sedation to do tests and said she continues to respond well to commands, the AP reported.

But Giffords faces many near- and lo
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