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Only 5% Survive Gunshot to the Head

Even with survival comes high risk of long-term brain damage
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2011 5:40 AM CST
Only 5% Survive Gunshot to the Head
Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head yesterday, outside a grocery store during a meeting with constituents.    (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(Newser) – The survival rate of a gunshot wound to the head, as Arizona Rep Gabrielle Giffords suffered yesterday, is about 5%, and 3% of those who do survive carry lasting neurological deficiencies, such as loss of memory loss or motor skills, reports Fox News. The next three to four days are most critical, says a Fox News doctor. Doctors first open the skull, look for bleeding, and cauterize blood vessels. "Patients are kept under anesthesia for three to four days to monitor brain swelling, which is one of the complications of this surgery," explains the expert.

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If the bullet grazes the tip of one of the brain lobes, the victim has the greatest chance for survival, and a bullet through one hemisphere still offers a reasonable chance. "[T]he farther from the center of the brain, the greater the chance of survival," reported Slate in a 2007 article about a slaying in Wisconsin. "The gravest bullet trajectories cross from one side of the head to the other, striking the center of the brain along the way." Doctors said yesterday they were "optimistic" about Giffords' chances for recovery. (Read more Gabrielle Giffords shooting stories.)

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