New Delhi, Monday, 8 April 2013: Blood-sucking leeches - used for thousands of years in ayurvedic medicine – also approved by US FDA are a tool for healing skin grafts or restoring circulation, said Padmashri and Dr B C Roy national Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal President Heart Care Foundation of India and National President Elect IMA.
Doctors have used these small aquatic worms for several thousand years in the belief that bloodletting helps to cure a wide range of complaints from headaches to gout. They reached their height of medicinal use in the mid-1800s.
Today, doctors around the world use leeches to remove blood pooled under skin grafts for burn patients or to restore circulation in blocked veins by removing pooled blood. Leeches are particularly useful in surgeries to reattach body parts such as fingers or ears. The leeches can help restore blood flow to reconnected veins.
FDA has approved leeches as a medical device. When leeches begin feeding, they inject salivary components (e.g., hirudin) that inhibit both platelet aggregation and the coagulation cascade. This results in a marked relief of venous congestion. The anti-coagulant causes the bite to ooze for up to 48 hours following detachment, further relieving venous congestion. By feeding for 10 to 60 minutes, leeches consume from 1 to 2 teaspoons of blood. Results from clinical studies showed that the success rate of salvaging tissue with medicinal leech therapy is 70 to 80%.
1. Poor venous drainage (venous congestion/venous outflow obstruction); or
2. Salvage of vascularly compromised flaps (muscle, skin, and fat tissue surgically removed from one part of body to another).
3. Salvage of vascularly compromised replants (limbs or other body parts re-attached after traumatic amputation).
4. Knee osteoarthritis, inadequate arterial supply or tissue ischemia, and for all other indications.