Medical Maggots

March 29, 2012
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We have discussed extensively on this blog the devastating effects of diabetes on wound healing. It can make sores that normally heal in days take months to heal. The longer a wound stays unhealed and open, the greater chance of it getting infected and needing IV antibiotics at the hospital.

Although the majority of wounds seen today are results of diseases like diabetes or venous insufficiency, that has not always been the case. In past decades, the majority of wounds were related to war injuries. In times of war, wounds were primarily results of bullets, explosions and shrapnel. Back then, antibiotics has not been discovered and doctors were limited on how to clean wounds to prevent infection. Most available treatments were harmful to both dead tissue and good tissue. Many people lost limbs or even their lives from what would be considered today as minor wounds.

Although there is documentation of maggots being used throughout history to help heal wounds, the first modern day use of them came during the American Civil War in the 1860s. Doctors noticed that fly larvae seemed to leave good tissue alone and clean out only the bad. Wounds treated with maggots seemed to heal faster and allow soldiers to keep their injured limbs. Once antibiotics were discovered around the time of World War II, the combination of these two therapies proved to be a huge advancement in wound care.

In recent decades, maggot therapy has been used less and less as it seemed to be a very primitive form of treatment. Obviously, the suggestion of using maggots to heal a wound has not been openly accepted by patients. But when we remember that a diabetic’s immune system isn’t functioning properly, something has to be done to heal their wounds. Maggots are now being used more and more to heal chronic wounds. We’ll discuss how exactly maggots clean wounds in the next post.

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