Surgeons at Tucson's University Medical Center removed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords from a ventilator Saturday and inserted a tracheotomy tube into her neck to assist her breathing, according to the center.
Removing her from the ventilator, which means she is now breathing on her own, allows the medical team to assess her ability to speak and is another step toward stabilizing her condition so she can leave the intensive care unit and be moved to a regular hospital room.
The tracheotomy tube in her throat provides a passageway for free movement of air and, if she begins to have trouble breathing, allows a simple way for doctors to insert a tube into her lungs to assist her breathing.
The team did not say anything about whether she was able to speak.
Surgeons on Saturday also performed a percutaneous endoscopic gastrotomy, in which a small tube was inserted through her abdominal wall directly into her stomach to provide high-protein fluids to help build her up.
Because of the ventilator and the tracheotomy, she has not been able to eat normally, and she has been receiving only intravenous fluids. Physicians want to help her regain her strength as she prepares for physical therapy.
One other patient injured in last Saturday's shooting, James Tucker, 58, was released from the hospital Saturday, leaving only two others besides Giffords still in the hospital.