Share Poll

Poll link

500 px
350 px
250 px

widget preview:

Width - px Height - px

Close preview
! You are using a non-supported browser Your browser version is not optimised for Toluna, we recommend that you install the latest version Upgrade
Our Privacy Notice governs your membership of our Influencer Panel, which you can access here. Our website uses cookies. Like in the offline world, cookies make things better. To learn more about the cookies we use, check out our Cookies policy.


  8 months ago

Sciencenetlinks: In the 1800's, leeches used to be the state-of-the-art medicine. But even today, their blood-sucking abilities are still in demand by doctors. You'll hear some reasons why in this Science Update.

Leeches are used in modern medicine because they work. They're an extremely effective artificial vein in certain situations where a body part such as a finger has been replanted after an amputation, but only the arterial side is working. The, the leech then serves as an artificial vein by drawing off the excess blood or the congested blood, until the person can actually grow back small, venous capillaries. some modern techniques for drawing off excess blood result in too much blood loss. Leeches, though, are considered to be a cost effective, more efficient, and less damaging alternative.

Picture this: You're chopping a steak with a big meat cleaver and—wham!—off comes your right index finger. Picture putting the finger in a jar and taking it with you to the hospital. Now picture a doctor carefully sewing the finger back on, and within hours the finger is blue and swollen with blood.

Grossed out yet? Good! Because now you can picture sticking a hungry leech on the end of that finger and—presto!—the finger returns to a nice healthy pink. That's one of the leech's greatest talents. When a finger or thumb is reattached, it's relatively easy to hook up the arteries, because they're thicker and tougher. Veins, on the other hand, are fragile and crumple up easily. So, until new capillaries can to re-connect these damaged veins, what you end up with is blood with a one-way ticket into a reattached finger. With no veins to carry it back out, the finger swells up and chokes itself off with blood clots.

Leeches are ideal in this situation because they suck the blood slowly and steadily. (If you drain the blood too fast, you may as well not have bothered to reattach the finger.) To drain blood at just the right rate without using leeches, surgeons sometimes turn to an even more disgusting (and less effective) procedure that involves ripping off a fingernail and scraping the nail bed raw so it bleeds at a slow and steady rate. Given the choice, most doctors—and patients—opt for the leeches.

Plus, leeches secrete natural anticoagulants that prevent the blood from clotting. One of these chemicals, hirudin, is so powerful that it's being studied as a possible therapeutic drug for people who have had heart attacks and strokes. These chemicals allow the wound to bleed slowly even after the leech has been removed, while the patient's new veins are still forming.

Leeches have been used in medicine for over 2,500 years. They were more popular in earlier times because it was widely thought that most diseases were caused by an excess of blood. As recently as the 19th century, leeches were used to treat everything from tonsillitis to hemorrhoids. You can imagine what both of those treatments involved.

Today, their use is more limited, but in some circumstances, they're still the best option. Plus, they're cheap (usually under $7 per leech). One of the few disadvantages is that they often try and hide under a patient's covers after they've been used. You can't blame them: they've just eaten several months' worth of food, and they're ready for a good long nap.

I have heard of this as it was used many years ago but did not know they still use it. Also, I do hope you are not have breakfast, they used maggots. I used to dress a patient's leg with them and they worked fantastically on ulcers. Now I am thinking of someone on Toluna whom I shall not name but it is a he with the leeches.

Comments if you wish


  8 months ago
Interesting but I’m also now not feeling very well lol.


  8 months ago
I have heard of this but Mrs B, you just turn me off my food.


  8 months ago
What was old is new again, yes I heard they were still being used, a bit gross, as are the maggots, but if they work so be it. Yum, now for a sandwich!


  8 months ago
Lovely topic, I was going to have lunch but maybe I'll wait awhile.

Copied to clipboard

You’re almost there

In order to create content on the community

Verify your Email / resend
No thanks, I’m just looking

We have disabled our Facebook login process. Please enter your Facebook email to receive a password creation link.
Please enter a valid Email
We're working on it...
When you upload a picture, our site looks better.