Organizations are advocating for larval therapy as a common procedure in wound care, rather than a last resort.
It may make your skin crawl, but one antiquated practice is having a bona fide renaissance in modern-day medicine; Larval therapy as a technique for healing wounds is gaining popularity. The procedure, which uses the flesh-eating larvae of the greenbottle blowfly to clean chronic wounds of dead tissue, was used prominently in Civil War battlefield medicine. While it might seem archaic, rising rates of diabetes coupled with recent increases in bacterial drug-resistant abilities have led scientists to look to the past for new solutions, as reported by Thrillist Health. Now, organizations such as Today’s Wound Clinic are advocating for larval therapy as a common procedure in chronic wound care, rather than a last-resort method.
Do the results outweigh the ickiness?
Although larval therapy became an FDA-approved technique for wound debridement in 2004, there have long been conflicting reports on the procedure’s efficacy. A 2002 trial documented in the International Journal of Tissue Repair and Regeneration observed the ability of maggot debridement to remove necrotic tissue versus conventional therapy. The study reported 80 percent of wounds were fully debrided using the larval procedure while conventional therapy only completely removed dead skin from 48 percent of wounds.
Despite these promising numbers, not all analyses come to such positive conclusions about this therapy. In 2009, 267 brave individuals participated in a study, published in the BMJ, testing the results of loose and bagged larval therapy in comparison to tradition hydrogel debridement in thehealing of venostasis ulcers. The study tested not only the amount of dead skin removed by the various techniques but also the rate of healing and the amount of pain reported by the patient. While the article cited a marked decrease in time to wound debridement, the report noted no significant difference in the rate of healing as opposed to the hydrogel therapy; Further, the BMJ reported that patients experienced increased pain with use of maggot therapy.
Baby bugs do their job — even when other procedures fail
Due to varying opinions on the efficiency of larval therapy, the method is often thought of as a last resort. A 2003 study from the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care Journal found that when other debridement techniques had previously failed patients, maggot therapy worked to remove an average of 67 percent more necrotic tissue than continued conventional treatments in five weeks. Also, this procedure is a viable option for patients unable to undergo surgery when anesthesia cannot be used.
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