Doctors successfully removed a leech, which was attached to an Australian woman's eyeball, just by thinking 'out of box'.
The leech made its way to the 66-year-old woman's eye while she was gardening in the backyard of her suburban Sydney home in March last year and accidentally flicked some moist soil and the blood-sucking organism into her left eye.
Her husband saw the leech wriggling its way over her cornea, as it headed for safety and feed via the eye's mass of delicate blood vessels.
"It was tucked up underneath her upper eyelid," News.com.au quoted emergency doctor Toby Fogg, who helped to remove the blood-sucking critter, as saying.
He added: "Our little fellow started off at about half a centimeter and by the time we removed it was about 2cm long, it had quite a good lunch."
Knowing that pulling the leech out with tweezers could leave its head lodged in the eyeball, the doctors considered two other suggestions, using an anesthetic on the eye to put the leech to sleep, or salted water.
While numbing the eyeball had no effect on the leech, salt crystals could be "abrasive to the eyeball."
And finally, doctors turned to a hospital staple, saline solution, which has many uses, including being used in intravenous drips for people who lack enough salt in their blood.
Fogg said: "We thought 'well why don't we try this', it's just thinking outside the box.
"It is available, cheap, and safe as far as using it on the eye is concerned and it worked beautifully, with just a few drops.
"The leech rolled straight off, it just fell on to her cheek so we put it in a pot and gave it to her."
And now, Fogg and his colleagues at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital have recommended saline solution for the treatment of people with leeches on their eyeballs.
The unusual case report is published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, the journal of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.