Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Tuesday, February 11, 2003
    Oh, Wow

    I don't have a current link for you, but I just read an article in Internal Medicine News:

    Leech Treatment Eases Pain From Osteoarthritis

    accompanied by a disgusting close-up of a leech doing its job. To continue:

    Exeter, England -- The therapeutic leechmania that swept Europe during the mid-19th century is staging a 21st century comeback for osteoarthritis.

    German researchers have found that treatment with the medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis can provide rapid and extended relief of osteoarthritis pain.

    The patients treated weren't using any of the usual oral meds like anti-inflammatories (think Motrin) or Tylenol. The leeches were tested against diclofenac gel (which is an anti-inflammatory medication) applied to the skin.

    Leech treatment involved application of four to six leeches [to various sites around the joint]. The leeches were allowed to feed to satiation, which generally required 40-90 minutes. Following feeding, the leeches spontaneously fall off and are not reused.

    There was an "overwhelming and rapid pain reduction" with leech therapy beginning within 24 hours and reaching statistical significance by 3 days after the treatment.

    The therapeutic effects of treatment with H. medicinalis derive from the presence of numerous active compounds in leech saliva...

    If I get an active link to the rest of the article later I'll let you know. I'll spare you the rest of it for now. Seriously, if this treatment can minimize the use of drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen (which can have side effects like ulcers and elevated blood pressure) for arthritis, I'm all for it. But I don't know how eager my patients would be to try leeches... and somehow I don't see managed care being willing to pay for them. Unless they have generic leeches. Heh.



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