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Gupta: Dehydration main concern after tube's removal


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Dr. Sanjay Gupta

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Terri Schiavo's case moves to federal court Monday after her parents petitioned to have the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube reinserted. The tube was removed Friday.

CNN anchor Bill Hemmer spoke Monday with CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the impact of the tube's removal.

HEMMER: What happens with Terri Schiavo when the feeding tube is removed?

GUPTA: It's basically put through the skin and into the stomach. It sits there and through the catheter, nutrition is given. When it's taken out, it's actually physically removed from the body, and she is no longer getting any nutrition or hydration. Those are the big concerns when someone has the feeding tube removed.

HEMMER: Does she effectively starve to death?

GUPTA: The bigger concern really is dehydration. Even more so than lack of nutrition. So in a way, it's a lack of fluids that would ultimately lead to her demise more quickly than the lack of calories.

HEMMER: How long could that last? Are we talking days or weeks or more than that?

GUPTA: Most likely days, maybe 10 to 14 days. So a couple of weeks at the most. Typically, you know, there's a little bit of a past knowledge when it comes to Terri, in particular in October of 2003, she was in the same situation. I'm sure you remember it well. At that point, the feeding tube was out for 6 1/2 days. Subsequently put back in. She obviously survived that. We're on day three now, Bill.

HEMMER: Long-term effects? What could they be for her?

GUPTA: The biggest concern, what happens when someone loses significant hydration. They develop chemical imbalances in their blood and that can subsequently cause heart failure. Why do they develop those chemical imbalances? Because usually the kidneys have stopped functioning as well. Long-term effects? Let's say she goes a few more days and subsequently has a feeding tube put in. She survives but may have significant damage to her kidneys, which is obviously difficult to take care of.

HEMMER: This feeding tube -- this is life support for her then, right?

GUPTA: I'd call it life support. She couldn't get by without it at this point.


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