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May 6th, 2011
11:48 AM ET

Gupta: What the future may hold for Giffords

Don’t miss “Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: Saving Gabby Giffords,” on Sunday, May 8 at 7 p.m. ET. The documentary reveals exclusive details  of the extraordinary efforts by paramedics and doctors credited with  saving the life of the congresswoman. You can also join Dr. Gupta for a LIVE chat on Twitter during the program.

I asked the Tucson doctors who cared for Rep. Gabby Giffords a question many people have asked me: Would she be able to return to work on Capitol Hill?  Trauma surgeon, Dr.  Randy Friese did not hesitate in his response. “I voted for her before, and I told her that I plan on voting for her again,” he said.

Trauma chief Dr. Peter Rhee paused a bit before answering. “I think she will. I think that everybody wants her to. There's enough enthusiasm that that's going to probably occur. Is she going to be the same as she was before? I think she's going to have permanent changes in thoughts and memories and feelings and emotions, so we'll have to see how that pans out in the future but I think she'll be doing very well.”

The brain's amazing ability to heal

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May 5th, 2011
12:49 PM ET

Gupta: How did Giffords survive?

Don’t miss “Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: Saving Gabby Giffords,” on Sunday, May 8 at 7 p.m. ET. The documentary reveals exclusive details of the extraordinary efforts by paramedics and doctors credited with saving the life of the congresswoman. You can also join Dr. Gupta for a LIVE chat on Twitter during the program.

While traveling around the country the last few months working on an upcoming documentary about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, people would often stop me and ask questions. “How exactly did she survive?” was a common one. “Will she return to Congress?” was another. One woman stopped me at an airport by gently grabbing my forearm. “Gabby -  isn’t it a miracle," she stated, more than asked

As a neurosurgeon, I have taken care of many patients with gunshot wounds to the head. If you look at national statistics, only around 5 to 10% survive

From the moment Giffords was shot, the odds were stacked against her. So, how did she survive?  I want to take you through the critical analysis that takes place in the trauma team’s minds.

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March 25th, 2011
12:43 PM ET

Human Factor: Hiroshima survivor uses radiation to heal

In the Human Factor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces you to survivors who have overcome tremendous odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. Be inspired by their successes, as we have been.

Ritsuko Komaki was just a baby when Hiroshima was destroyed. She lived less than an hour away, and the effects of that nuclear blast in August 1945 colored her life.

Like many survivors of the atomic bomb, she watched her mother, grandmother, family members and friends suffer from radiation sickness.  The death of her childhood friend, who folded about 600 origami cranes while struggling with leukemia, inspired Komaki to pursue medicine.

Komaki realized that while radiation was lethal, it could also help and treat cancers.  She is now an oncologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and says, radiation has always been part of her life.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has her story in today's Human Factor.


March 2nd, 2011
12:24 PM ET

Sheen has us asking: What's bipolar?

Over the last couple days, I have found it interesting how many people have watched the antics and interviews with Charlie Sheen, and immediately diagnosed him as either being on drugs or in the middle of a manic episode. Could be – but who knows, maybe it is all a big ruse. His erratic behavior is not in question, but arriving at a diagnosis based on a TV interview is impossible. In fact, my colleagues in the psychiatry community say it can be challenging even after completing a full assessment.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by the occurrence of at least one manic episode during the patient’s lifetime. Most patients also, at other times, have one or more
depressive episodes. In the intervals between these episodes, most patients return to their normal state of well-being. This is according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). When looking for evidence of mania, doctors often cite symptoms like being overly euphoric, agitated behavior, racing speech and impulsive behavior to name a few. Just reading that gives you an idea of why arriving conclusively at a diagnosis can sometimes be so difficult.

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February 18th, 2011
12:13 PM ET

Inside Giffords' rehab: Hard work, hard questions

When I walked into TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital, I had a few things on my mind. I would get to see firsthand the type of therapy Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was receiving after being shot in the head in early January. I also realized that, despite sending hundreds of my own neurosurgery patients for rehabilitation, I had not spent extended time learning all the various therapies currently available and how they work together to restore function. Finally, I reflected on a conversation I had with T. Christian Miller from ProPublica, about TriCare (the Pentagon’s health plan for the armed forces) and how it won’t pay to cover cognitive therapy for brain injured soldiers.

Gifford’s doctor, Gerard Francisco, greeted me and showed me a white board of a therapy schedule he tailored for me. On this day, I was playing the patient. An intensive, exhaustive seven-hour schedule was presented, full of physical therapy, speech, recreational, occupational and my personal favorite – music therapy.

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January 25th, 2011
03:52 PM ET

A doctor in Davos

I flew into Zurich, Switzerland this morning, and then traveled two hours to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF). On the way, I learned Davos is Europe’s highest-altitude city. It is a small and remote place with only around 13,000 residents and only one road in and out. The WEF is a five-day meeting where 2,500 of the world’s top business leaders, heads of state, and public figures get together to try to solve the problems confronting the other nearly 7 billion of us.

It is a remarkable concentration of some of the best minds in business, technology and politics – all together in one remote destination. I can tell you, despite its high-profile attendees, the forum isn’t official or formal.  Former President Clinton is just "Bill" here in Davos. There are no titles, and there are no fancy restaurants. Most of the attendees hang out in the cafeteria hall.

To be clear, though, there are two meetings going on here. After the panels are completed, there are dozens of private gatherings where some of the real work gets done. If you have heard of the Global Health Initiative, you may also know that Kofi Annan launched it at the 2002 annual meeting. The mission was to take advantage of the public/private partnerships towards combating malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. In 1989, North and South Korea spoke for the first time here at Davos.

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January 14th, 2011
07:38 AM ET

Tucson: Heroes amidst the horror

At University Medical Center in Tucson, four patients remain in the hospital. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is now the only one in critical condition.

Outside, there is a constantly busy makeshift memorial, even in the middle of the night. Television and newspaper reporters are buzzing around, trying to satisfy the appetite of a curious public. There is so much attention on these four patients, that it was somewhat surprising that they hardly know it. Most of them have cut themselves off and barely watched any news reports, or even visited with other victims down the hall.

I was allowed to meet with the patients at UMC, as they decided to speak for the very first time. It became clear within moments that as much as I wanted to record their stories, they needed – they wanted to talk even more.

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January 10th, 2011
06:25 AM ET

Gupta: What helped Giffords survive brain shot

CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a practicing trauma neurosurgeon and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is in critical condition on a ventilator after being shot through the back of the left side of her head, yet doctors are “cautiously optimistic” about her survival. That she is alive at all is surprising to many people, but people survive these types of injuries more often than you may think.

While every patient and injury is different, on average – around 2/3 of patients with a gunshot wound (GSW) to the head don’t live long enough to make it to the hospital. Of the third that do make it, only 50% of those patients survive longer than 30 days. And of course, those numbers say nothing of long-term neurological function in the survivors.

So far, according to her doctors, Giffords is likely to be in the small minority of patients who will beat the odds. So, what placed those odds in her favor?

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November 18th, 2010
12:32 PM ET

How can I keep my weight loss off?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.
From Nora Mays Landing, New Jersey:

“I’ve started a low-carb diet and have lost 25 pounds. But it’s hard to stick to and I’m worried if I stop, I’ll gain the weight back. What can I do to prevent this from happening?”

Answer:

When trying to lose weight and keep it off, the most important thing to focus on is making a lifestyle change versus the mindset of a diet. If you’re having trouble sticking to an eating regime you’re comfortable with, begin to make adjustments that will lead to habits you can maintain forever.

Start by making specific goals. However, be realistic. Saying you are not going to eat pasta ever again probably will not last forever. Instead, make a mini-goal. For example if you want to cut down your carbohydrate intake, a mini-goal might be to limit your pasta intake to once a week, then transition to once a month and maintain that regime as a lifestyle change. Another great way to keep your weight loss from creeping back up is to write down everything you eat. It helps keep you accountable for everything that goes in your mouth.

Also, don’t feel tied to a low-carb diet forever. A study released earlier this year that looked at the benefits of low-fat vs low-carb diets. What they discovered was interesting. In terms of long-term weight loss, it does seem to be a tie in effectiveness. Low-fat and low-carb eaters, on average, lost about 24 pounds over the course of a year. Fast forward  two years, and 15 of those pounds actually stayed off for both groups. Both diets also led to a drop in triglyceride levels drop and systolic blood pressure, the top number in your overall blood pressure reading.

Some people find a low-fat diet easier to follow and more satisfying. So if you're focused on shedding pounds and keeping the weight off, pick whatever option you can possibly stick to. You may have heard me talk about this before, but in terms of losing weight – the formula is quite simple. To lose one pound, you have to cut out of your diet or burn off via exercise 3,500 calories. That’s cutting only 500 calories a day to lose one pound a week. So essentially, skipping the morning bagel and cream cheese and walking for an hour after work is enough for many out there to begin a steady weight loss.


November 16th, 2010
12:23 PM ET

Lessons of an Urban Planet: Toxic air

Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports this week  from Kobe, Japan, on the health concerns of an increasingly urbanized world. Today's focus: the toxic effects of air pollution.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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