Aunt Meg consults Caterpickles: “Do they really still use leeches in modern medicine?”
My sister and I have been talking about medical things more than usual lately, and since she also inherited our family’s wildly roving mind, somehow we got on to the topic of leeches, and whether this medieval practice was still popping up in modern medicine.
In researching this question I rapidly discovered that reading about how leeches operate in a medical setting makes me regret my breakfast choices. But I promised my sister that I would post something about modern medical use of leeches on Caterpickles.
What’s a blogger to do?
Write a super short, photo-less post that points readers to credible sources written by authors with more robust stomachs, greater courage, and more extensive knowledge.
Yes, leeches are used in modern U.S. medicine.
Thankfully, as far as I can tell, today’s doctors don’t use leeches as widely as physicians in past centuries did. Once upon a time, physicians thought that blood-letting was a great treatment for almost anything that ailed you. Even as late as the 19th century, leeches and blood-letting were the go-to treatment for everything from tonsillitis to hemorrhoids (shudder).
That said, the FDA cleared leeches for use as a living medical device to clear localized blood clots in veins back in 2004.
Today, doctors primarily use leeches to:
- help heal surgical wounds (particularly those from plastic surgery)
- heal skin grafts
- restore circulation in blocked veins
- act as a temporary vein after surgically reattaching various limbs
Whew. I survived this post.
Y’all, do me a favor and no one tell Meg that when the FDA approved leeches as a living medical device, they also approved maggots.
- Leeches cleared for medical use by FDA (WebMD archives, 2004)
- Modern leeching (ScienceNetLinks)
- Maggots and leeches: Good medicine (USA Today, Health and Behavior Archives, 2004)
- When leeches are used in modern medicine: Have we turned back time? (US New & World Report, 2018)
What are you thinking?