Leech Therapy in Cutaneous Surgery and Disease

March 2010 | Volume 9 | Issue 3 | Case Reports | 252 | Copyright © March 2010

Adam J. Mamelak MD, Adrianna Jackson MD, Rabia Nizamani BS, Ofer Arnon MD,Nanette J. Liegeois MD PhD, Richard J. Redett MD, Patrick J. Byrne MD

Background: Over the ages, the use of leeches in medicine has evolved from haphazard bloodletting to a well-understood physiologic process with defined, rational applications.

Objective: The authors describe the current role of leech therapy in cutaneous surgery and medicine.

Methods: Case series and review of the literature.

Results: Leech saliva contains anticoagulative, anti-aggregative and vasodilatory components. Combined with the annelid’s mechanical ability to extract blood, leeches can contribute to patients’ health with minimal risks.

Conclusion: Leeches should be considered as novel therapies for disorders of coagulation and venous congestion. Implementation of leech treatment should be tempered with the potential adverse effects, including Aeromonas infection and a drop in hematocrit that might require a blood transfusion.