Doctors replace Giffords' breathing tube

January 16th, 2011 By ALICIA CHANG , AP Science Writer in Medicine & Health / Other
In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio reenacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Giffords is in critical condition after being shot in the head in her district in Arizona Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)


In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio reenacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Giffords is in critical condition after being shot in the head in her district in Arizona Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

(AP) -- Doctors on Saturday removed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' breathing tube and could soon know if she can speak.

Giffords had an operation Saturday to replace the breathing tube with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe. That allows her to breathe better and frees her from the .

Though Giffords had been breathing on her own since she was shot in the head Jan. 8, doctors had left the breathing tube in as a precaution. A was also put in to provide nutrition. Those procedures are not out of the ordinary for brain-injured patients.

Giffords' doctors have said they should be able to evaluate her ability to speak once the is out.

Giffords, who was wounded in last weekend's attack that killed six people, remains in critical condition at University Medical Center.

"Her recovery continues as planned," the hospital said in a statement.

Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, has remained by her bedside.

One patient was discharged Saturday while two others remain in good condition.

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"Doctors replace Giffords' breathing tube." January 16th, 2011. http://phys.org/news/2011-01-doctors-giffords-tube.html