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Vein Centers in Australia Resort to Leech Therapy

Posted by floriza in Vein Center

While leeches were commonly used in the past to treat all sorts of ailments, most modern physicians have shunned the practice. In Sydney, Australia, however, a certain species of leech called Richardsonianus australis is being used as a vein center treatment for varicose veins, as well as arthritis and deep vein thrombosis.

Of course, many vein center patients balk at the idea of having a leech purposely placed on their skin, but others are gritting their teeth and allowing the practice.

In order to prevent infections from being transferred from one patient to another, the leeches are used on only one patient at a time. A farm in Victoria supplies the leeches to the facility in Australia.

How Do Leeches Work?

Their saliva contains an anticoagulant called hirudin, which prevents blood from clotting. Since varicose veins involve blood that has pooled and cannot flow properly, the leeches counteract this process, helping the pooled blood to break down and flow again. It might seem that the hirudin could be removed from the leeches, but each leech contains so little that it is not a viable alternative.

While leeches are not universally used in modern hospitals and doctor’s offices, physicians have begun to use them more frequently for their anticoagulation properties. They can cut down on blood clots, for example, after skin grafts, and they can assist in blood circulation when an organ must be reattached, such as a finger.

Some side effects from leech therapy have been noted, such as excessive bleeding, which can be treated. A bacterial infection or an allergic reaction can result in rare cases.

The History of Leech Therapy

The practice has been popular in Eastern Europe for some time and has begun to be used in the United States since leeches were called “medical devices” and approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004. While the practice is far from widespread, a Brooklyn, New York holistic center, for example, uses them, as well as New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center on an experimental basis. A holistic practitioner who uses leeches is called a hirudotherapist, and there are certification programs for such professionals.

There is evidence of the use of leeches in medicine from 3,500 years ago. Today, however, we are far away from the ancient belief that leeches can cure anything. Nevertheless, their ability to drain congested blood has proven useful for some modern physicians.

A study conducted in Mumbai, India in 1998, for example, concluded that medicinal leeches could be effective in managing varicose veins. The practice may prove useful in the future, therefore, for vein centers in New Jersey and other parts of the U.S. and the world.


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