Friday, April 08, 2011

Apply the Leeches!

Sifting through a pile of abstracts, I came across this 2010 case report of a man managing his cancer pain through application of leeches.
The patient was lost to follow-up and then showed up 2 months later at a visit in good condition. The patient’s pain was greatly improved, and he was using paracetamol 500 mg occasionally for mild discomfort. The patient informed us that he has applied seven leeches to the lumber region for 2 days a month: four leeches at the first day and three leeches at the second day. His neighbor had advised him on the use of leeches for pain treatment, and the leeches were applied by his son. He has bought the leeches from a pet market.
Now that's a home remedy. The authors point out that leeches can be (and are) used for a variety of other indications. The report also includes this description:
Leeches have got suckers at the front and rear of their body. At the front, the animal has three jaws each and a jaw contains 100 teeth. Leeches can suck nearly 5–15 mL
of blood at one attachment; if the leech’s intestinal tract is opened with a small incision, the sucking capacity can be increased. Leeches are armed with a range of pharmacologically active ingredients
It seems the reason for pain relief is still unclear - it could be one of the "range of pharmacologically active ingredients or, as the authors point out, it could be placebo effect based on strong expectations of the patient. Anybody up for a clinical trial?