Gabrielle Giffords survived being shot because the bullet did not cross between the two sides of her brain, the surgeons overseeing her treatment said yesterday.
The congresswoman was shot in the back of the head and the bullet passed through the left side of her brain and exited above her left eye.
Dr Michael Lemole, the chief of neurosurgery at Tucson's University Medical Centre, said: "When we talk about gunshot wounds to the head, the things that are most concerning to us are if the bullet crosses from one hemisphere to the other.
"I'm happy to say that was not the case in this instance. And because of that, Congresswoman Giffords is able to communicate with us this morning."
Dr Peter Rhee, the hospital's trauma chief, said Ms Giffords was responding to commands to squeeze her hand or lift fingers, but dismissed some press reports that she had spoken.
Dr Lemole said that brain swelling was the biggest threat to Ms Giffords at this stage. (© Daily Telegraph, London)