Doctors performed a procedure Saturday morning that helps protect U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' airway but frees her from a ventilator that she's been on since being wounded in a shooting a week ago.
Doctors removed a breathing tube from the 40-year-old Arizona congresswoman and replaced it with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe, according to an update from University Medical Center.
Giffords has been breathing on her own for several days, but doctors kept the breathing tube in place as a precaution, Dr. Peter Rhee, University Medical Center's chief of trauma, said Friday.
Surgeons also inserted a feeding tube to provide nutrition to the wounded congresswoman.
Both procedures are not uncommon among brain-injured patients in the intensive-care unit, according to the report. Giffords is still listed in critical condition.
Another shooting victim, James Tucker, was discharged Saturday, leaving only Giffords and two other victims of the Jan. 8 rampage as patients at the medical center.
Susan Hileman and George Morris remained in the hospital Saturday. Both were listed in good condition.
A week after Giffords was shot in the head at point-blank range in a rampage that left six dead and 13 wounded, she continued to improve significantly and is able to track with her eyes and has the ability to move her arms and legs, doctors reported Friday.
Wednesday marked the first time that Giffords opened her eyes spontaneously. On Thursday, she began a physical-therapy routine after showing doctors she could lift both arms and legs when held upright by medical staff.
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