Unclean Wound? Bring Out The Maggots!

My new article for CNN.com:

As a surgical resident, I spent several months working in the local wound clinic. One day, a 60-year-old old man named John arrived, several weeks after undergoing a cardiac bypass. The surgeon had harvested a large vein from his leg for the operation.

I entered the exam room. John’s left leg was elevated on the exam table, exposing an open wound.

“Something’s wrong with my leg, doc.”

I stepped closer. Dozens of small white larvae wiggled and squirmed in his open flesh.

Maggots! Not good.

Or are they?

The use of medicinal maggots, sometimes called maggot debridement therapy, was first widely reported during the time of Napoleon. His general surgeon reportedly used maggots as a technique of cleaning soldiers’ battlefield wounds. Maggot therapy was also a common practice during the Civil War and World War I.

Scientific studies on medicinal maggot use began in the 1920s. These studies revealed that maggots helped clean dirty and necrotic wounds by feeding on the dead tissue while leaving the healthy tissue unaffected.

During the 1930s, thousands of surgeons used maggots to effectively treat chronic or infected wounds such as abscesses, burns and even bone infections.   The use of maggots sharply declined in the 1940s with the introduction of penicillin. Doctors and patients could now replace the unpleasant creepy-crawlies with a simple medication.

However, with the advent of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, many physicians have returned to maggots as a viable therapeutic option.

To read the rest of the article, including what happened to John, click HERE.

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Posted in: Dr. Anthony Youn in the Media


Responses:

  1. Nice article. However, I’m a little confused about why you have an illustration of Cicadas instead of flies, the insect with a maggot stage. They are the insects that live underground for upwards of 17 years before emerging for a single summer. Those are completely different insects than flies and are certainly not maggots.

    Comment by Kyle on September 17, 2012 at 5:24 am

  2. Nice catch Kyle! Actually, I have a limited number of images that I own, and this was the closest that I had to actual flies. No maggot images, either.

    Comment by Editor on September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm

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