Arizona Shooting: Latest on Gabrielle Giffords' Condition

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Arizona Daily Star, Kelly Presnell)

TUCSON (CBS) I just spoke with Dr Peter Rhee, Chief of trauma surgery at University of Arizona Medical Center.

The latest on Congresswoman Giffords is that she remains in critical condition, on sedation, with a breathing tube connected to a ventilator to support her breathing. She has had no unexpected medical complications thus far.

In terms of the medical issues that doctors and nurses will be looking for, trauma teams go organ system by organ system. They evaluate her pulmonary status, because pneumonia is a risk for any critically injured patient and for any patient on a ventilator. They will have her on anti-ulcer medication to prevent a condition known as stress gastritis. They have not decided to place a feeding tube yet. 

In terms of her liver and kidneys, daily blood work checks to make sure blood sugar levels remain constant (controlled by the liver) and her kidneys continue to function well. Her clotting system will be monitored, since patients who have been injured and who are immobilized are at increased risks of developing blood clots.

Daily CT scans of the brain as well as daily chest x-rays are part of her ICU routine. The part of her skull that was removed during the surgery, known as a decompression craniectomy, is being stored in a sterile refrigerator, and doctors do not expect to replace it for approximately 2-3 months.

Recovery can be expected to continue for months and years. At this point, it is unknown what type or level of function Giffords will have.

Finally, we cannot forget the other shooting patients. At AU medical center, the patients who were in ICU were transferred out yesterday. 3 of the patients are in serious condition and 6 patients are in fair condition.

Doctors at the Medical Center here have been working around the clock and clearly this has been an emotional few days for them as well as the rest of the community. The Medical Professionals tell us they have been overwhelmed by the support from the community, which has even included food delivered to the staff from local vendors.