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Gabrielle Giffords: How She Survived a Shot to the Head

The chance of survival for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Saturday’s
shooting increased significantly because of one factor: The single
bullet that struck her traveled in and out of her head.

“A bullet has a lot of energy,” said Dr. Marc Levison, medical director of trauma services for John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital.
“It goes through the skull and if it stays, it bounces around with 100
percent of the energy. If it leaves, at least 50 percent of that energy
goes out.”

So reports The Arizona Republic

It’s been difficult to understand how Gabrielle Giffords survived a point-blank gunshot to the head. Here’s what’s known about her wound so far:

–  She was shot once in the head with a semi-automatic handgun.

–  The shooter was next to Giffords when he shot her, possibly “three or four feet” away.

–  Giffords was shot “one time, in the head, through and through,” as trauma doctor Peter Rhee said yesterday.  “Through and through” is a standard forensics term meaning that a shot went entirely through the body.

–  The bullet entered above her forehead and exited from the rear of her head. [See correction below.]  An aide applied pressure to the wounds almost immediately — first with his hands, and later with “clean smocks from the meat department” of Safeway.

Further detail from that original Arizona Republic story:

Mark Kimble, 57, who works in Giffords’ congressional office, said
the bullet entered the top of her head and traveled out the back… Kimble, who was at the hospital, said he was told that if you had to
be shot, “it’s the best place you can be shot…. It didn’t cross the
centerline of the brain, which is crucial.” He said the major concern
now is swelling of the brain.

Six other people were killed in the shooting. It’s remarkable that Rep. Giffords survived.

[ Update 5:00 pm EST 1/9/2011: ABC News says that the bullet entered the back of Gifford’s head, not her forehead as earlier reported. The bullet “traveled the length of the brain on the left side.” ABC also says she is currently in a medically-induced coma to “help her brain rest.” ]

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