Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - Two patients remained at University Medical Center on Tuesday after the January 8 shooting - Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and George Morris, whose wife, Dorothy, was killed in the attack.
UMC said Giffords continues to improve physically and neurologically.
We talked Tuesday with Dr. Eric Sipos, Carondelet Neurological Institute Medical Director.
He's not Giffords' physician, so he can't speak to specifics of her treatment, but as a leading neurosurgeon, he can explain, and help us understand, what her physicians are doing.
Giffords doctors have been holding news conferences, giving regular updates on her condition. During the latest they described the surgery they did Saturday to her right eye socket, or orbit. "She had bilateral orbital roof fractures. That's basically fractures in the roof of the eye socket," her neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Lemole said.
Dr. Sipos explained that the bone that forms the roof of the eye socket is very thin.
"The roof of the orbit is right there and the floor of the skull is there. It's the same bone. And so something that disrupts the cranial vault--the box that the brain lives in--can also displace fragments of the bone into the space that they eye lives in," Dr. Sipos explained.
And those fragments can affect vision.
So Giffords' doctors removed them from her right eye area.
"The procedure itself did require a craniotomy. That's opening a window in the skull. IT did require that we remove some of the rim of that eye socket so we could work back in that space, remove those bone fragments and take the pressure off," said Dr. Lemole.
"We actually reconstructed that roof with a metal mesh and then were able to close up," Dr. Lemole added.
That mesh is permanent.
Initially, doctors removed a large portion of Giffords' skull to accommodate any swelling of her brain, so the skull wouldn't cause even more damage to the brain.
Weeks or months from now the skull will be rebuilt, either with the original piece of bone or a prosthetic.
"We can take a CT scan and from the CT scan general a model of the perfect replacement to fill in that cranial defect. We can have it fabricated out of a variety of different materials," said Dr. Sipos.
The next step in Giffords' treatment will be rehabilitation.
Her doctors were asked whether she can see out of her right eye.
Dr. Lemole said finding out if she can will require a detailed ophthalmologic exam when she is more interactive with them, but he said, they suspect she can see something.
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