Gabrielle Giffords has surgery to repair skull

HOUSTON - TIRR Memorial Hospital in Houston says Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords underwent surgery to repair a hole in her skull.

The hospital says in a statement on Wednesday that doctors and members of the congresswoman's staff will hold a briefing on Thursday to give an update on her medical condition and discuss the next steps.

Doctors had removed the piece of skull shortly after Giffords was shot in January. They did this because her brain was swelling. They covered the hole with a custom-made plastic implant.

Valley neurosurgeon Dr. Nader Sanai with St. Josephs/Barrow Institutue said that there is little chace for infection and the surgery is common.

"Its strengh is as good as before and typically over the years the bone will fuse together," he said.

Sanai said that watching Giffords has been inspiring to his patients.

"When a public figure goes through a proceedure or a disease, then the patients get some hope and some expectation of what is normal," he said.

Wednesday's surgery has been called a milestone in Giffords' recovery by outside experts. It was conducted while her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, is in space commanding the space shuttle Endeavour.