Researchers at the University of Michigan, made a new study which showed that an odd medical approach may help patients after head and neck surgery. Ann Arbor say leeches are an effective addition when trying to salvage tissue transfers.Patients who have surgery to remove cancer in and around the head and neck often need to have tissue transfers performed.
Doctors say about 15 percent of patients develop obstructions that cannot be treated with medicine or surgery. Of the 400 tissue transfers performed at UM between 1997 and 2000, eight patients developed a problem. Doctors used leeches on all eight patients with the intention of reducing the obstruction. They write, "Aggressive application of the presented leech therapy protocol can salvage free tissue transfers with venous obstruction that are otherwise unsalvageable."
An average of 200 leeches were used on each patient over an average of 6.6 days. Most patients were in the intensive care unit for less than 15 days. Researchers say each leech sucked out between 5ml and 15ml of blood from the tissue. The bite marks then continued to bleed out another 20ml to 50ml afterwards. In this therapy doctors felt that this is effective in reducing the amount of obstruction in tissue transplants and can eliminate the need for a second tissue transfer.