Giffords undergoes successful surgery

Doctors overseeing the recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) said Thursday that an operation to replace part of her skull “went very well.”

Dr. Dong Kim, the director of Neuroscience at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, where Giffords has been recovering, said at a news conference that Giffords underwent successful surgery Wednesday to replace part of her skull, which had been removed as the result of her attempted assassination Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz.

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Giffords, the target of the attack, was shot in the head at close range. The shooter killed six people and shot 13 others.

During her initial treatment, part of Giffords’s skull had been removed to relieve brain swelling. On Wednesday, the doctors said, the part was replaced by an implant.

The TIRR Memorial Hermann doctors added that a shunt to stop fluid buildup in her brain had also been inserted during the surgery.

"She had the implant put in, and then the shunt is a permanent completely internalized system," Kim said. "You can't see it from the outside and many patients in the U.S. have shunts. It's something you can have for the rest of your life and doesn't impede anything."

"Both were done yesterday and went very well," Kim continued. "I'm happy to say the shunt's in good position, the implant's in good position, and everything looks great.

"It'd be very hard to say if and when she can return to work, but she has done very well so far, and we hope that progress continues," Kim said.

Giffords's chief of staff Pia Carusone, also at the press conference, said the “good news” of the successful surgery was relayed to Giffords's husband, astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, who is currently in space commanding the space shuttle Endeavour.