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US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' medical condition was upgraded from critical to serious on Sunday, eight days after she was shot through the head by a gunman at close range.
Doctors said they upgraded Giffords' condition because she was no longer attached to a ventilator. Surgeons on Saturday replaced a breathing tube that ran down her throat with a tracheotomy tube inserted through a hole in her neck into her windpipe.
"The congresswoman continues to do well. She is breathing on her own," said a statement released on Sunday by the University Medical Center in Tucson. "Yesterday's procedures were successful and uneventful."
Doctors said Giffords had been breathing essentially on her own for days but had remained hooked up to a ventilator in part as a safeguard against infection.
The hospital said they planned no further updates on Giffords' condition until a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. local time (1800 GMT) on Monday.
Doctors also have fitted Giffords with a feeding tube, a practice not uncommon for patients in intensive care with brain injuries.
Giffords, 40, had been the only patient in critical condition from the Jan. 8 shooting that left 12 other people wounded. Six more gunshot victims died in the rampage. One patient was discharged on Saturday, leaving two others hospitalized in good condition.
Doctors have expressed satisfaction with the pace of Giffords' recovery. In recent days, she has opened her eyes and is tracking the movement of objects in her field of vision. She also is responding to simple commands, such as raising her fingers and wiggling her toes.
Giffords, a Democrat representing Tucson and southern Arizona, was elected in November to her third term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, a college dropout from the area, has been detained as the lone gunman suspected in the rampage. He is charged with five federal felony offenses, including attempted assassination of a member of Congress.
The rampage sparked a national debate about whether the vitriolic tone of partisan politics in the United States in recent years had contributed to the suspect's motivations.
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