Benefits from the use of medicinal leech

Hirudin- the anticoagulant

The benefits of leech therapy are due, in large part, to the anticoagulant effects ("blood thinning"), vasodilatory effects, and anesthetic effects of the biochemicals contained in leech saliva, as well as the physical effects of blood letting (phlebotomy). Hirudin, a potent anticoagulant in leech saliva, inhibits the conversion of fibrinogen to fibrin, preventing blood from clotting. Indeed, a wound may continue to bleed for many hours after the leech has already detached due to the anticoagulant effect of hirudin. Many recently developed prescription drugs used for similar conditions were designed based on the mechanism of action of leeches.

Medicinal leech in reconstructive and vascular surgery

Medicinal leeches are used to assist in the reattachment of severed body parts such as fingers, hands, toes, legs, ears and noses. Hirudo medicinalis are also used to help with venous insufficiency when there is sufficient arterial flow when reattaching severed body parts.

Today leeches are also used to drain blood from swollen faces, limbs and digits (fingers and toes) after reconstructive surgery. They are especially useful when reattaching small body parts that have many small blood vessels. Leeches are used to prevent the clotting of blood in these small veins. Leeches are gently placed in the area needed by a qualified healthcare provider, and allowed to attach and engorge for the next 6-12 hours, after which they will release. The entire course of treatment may require one to 6 treatments or more, depending upon the goals and rate of response.