Leeches in Medicine - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/22/04

Leeches in Medicine

You might see them eat leeches on Fear Factor, but scientists are finding a much better use for those creepy critters.

Scott Thornton was in an accident that pulled four fingers off his hand. He was rushed to the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco where a team of surgeons were able to reattach two fingers and moved two toes to replace the other two fingers. Another problem came during Scott's recovery when the blood stopped circulating in the reattached index fingers, but instead of using high tech tools to save the finger, nurses called in this slimy specialist, a leech.

"She went out got the leech, she put it on my finger, left it there for about 40 minutes and the finger bled from the tip for two days after that," says Thornton.

"You use the leech to actually help drain the blood out of the finger. Actually the leech has in its saliva some anti-coagulant called Herudin that helps with the blood flow in the finger," says microsurgeon Dr. Greg Bruncke.

At this clinic in San Francisco, these hungry blood suckers have helped hundreds of patients. They typically feast for about 15-30 minutes. Please do not try this at home. These are not the typical leeches you get out of a lake. They are specifically bred for medical use. Doctors always keep these leeches hungry so they are always ready to work when they're needed.

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