Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik lost five units of blood, but doctors never considered his life in jeopardy after the player had his carotid artery nearly severed by a teammate's skate in a freak and frightening accident.
Zednik underwent an hour of surgery to reconnect the artery on Sunday night and was listed in stable condition in the intensive care unit at Buffalo General Hospital on Monday. He was awake and cooperative with the medical staff, doctors said.
Attending surgeon Sonya Noor said there were no initial signs of brain damage, which is a fear whenever the carotid artery is clamped. She said clamps were in place for about 15 to 20 minutes during surgery.
"So far, he looks very good. He's awake, oriented," Noor said. "He remembers what happened last night."
Zednik was sliced across the right side of the throat by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate midway through the third period of 5-3 loss to Buffalo. Doctors said the skate blade just missed cutting the jugular vein.
The carotid artery supplies blood to the brain, while the jugular vein takes blood from the brain. Blood pressure is much higher in the carotid artery.
Sabres orthopedic surgeon Les Bisson, who attended to Zednik shortly after he got off the ice, said losing five units -- about two-and-a-half liters -- of blood was significant, but "not a lot" for this type of injury.
According to Noor, the slashed artery was "hanging by a thread." She stressed if the artery had been completely severed it would have recessed into the neck, requiring even more extensive surgery.
Prior to surgery, doctors noted that Zednik's blood pressure was dropping, and there was also swelling around the cut making it difficult to breathe. Doctors put a tube in his neck to open an airway.
"We became concerned. He was clearly in shock from blood loss. His heart rate was high his blood pressure was a bit low," Robert McCormack, the hospital's clinical chief of emergency medicine, said.
Vascular surgeon Richard Curl, who assisted Noor, said the cut was about 4cm deep and also as wide. Doctors were astonished the skate blade did not hit any other arteries.