Leech Information & Education
Leech therapy in the Vienna hospital
Ancient method: leeches in the AKH
The General Hospital (AKH) in Vienna not only focuses on the latest medical treatment options. Leeches, like those from antiquity, are used for healing purposes - about 50 times a year.
The medical leech is not only the best-known representative of the leeches, but also a medical device and is used as such at the AKH. It is kept in a separate chamber in the AKH institutional pharmacy. There, Alexander Gregor, the senior pharmaceutical assistant, takes care of the animals that need a lot of care: “The leeches are happy about bathing. Then you become mobile. "
The saliva of the animals brings the desired effect
50 missions per year
The purchased leeches are not fed in the institutional pharmacy, but only in the hospital wards, where they can eat as needed: "When fingers are sewn on again - so-called replantations - and there are circulatory disorders, we use leeches," says Christine Radtke, who heads plastic surgery at MedUni Vienna, in an interview with "Vienna Today". Leeches can also be used in tissue transplantation.
"They have a complex composition of anti-inflammatory substances, analgesic substances, blood-thinning substances in the saliva - and they all inject them when they dock and bite into them," explains the head of the pharmacy, Martina Anditsch. These medical assistants from the animal kingdom are brought to the aid about 50 times a year at the AKH.
The animals are kept in the institutional pharmacy
40 milliliters of blood per hour
A small leech sucks up to 40 milliliters of blood within an hour. When it is full, it leaves loose and is disposed of. "There are some who dread it," says Gregor. There are almost no side effects - in contrast to thousands of pharmaceutical products that are otherwise available, says Radtke.
Leeches in Asian medicine
Leech therapy is one of the rejection procedures of medical naturopathy. The first representations of leech therapy come from India (approx. 500 BC). In Europe, treatment with leeches was first introduced around 200 BC. BC mentioned by the Greeks Nikander and Colophon.
Leech therapy is now experiencing a renaissance in naturopathy, but also in surgery.
The overall effect of leech therapy is due to blood loss and the specific leech agents. The leech produces an anticoagulant substance called hirudin in its neck glands. Hirudin has an anticoagulant, antithrombotic, immunizing and antispasmodic effect through local vasodilation. Other leech agents have circulation-promoting properties. Due to the loss of blood (approx. 10 ml) and the bleeding lasting several hours (approx. 20 to 40 ml), the effect of leech therapy also corresponds to that of a very gentle and slow bloodletting. It has a decongestant, blood-thinning, anti-inflammatory effect and removes toxins and metabolic waste. The main indications for leech treatment are:
inflammatory diseases, chronic sinusitis, chronic otitis media venous diseases: varicose veins, acute thrombophlebitis, post-thrombotic syndrome, leg ulcers, hemorrhoids joint diseases: rheumatic diseases, distortion, acute gout attack local infections: boils, carbuncles eye diseases: age-related cataracts, other diseases: chronic glaucoma Tinnitus, postzoster neuralgia, etc.
Hirudo therapy in the medical practice
What is leech therapy?
In leeches treatment, leeches are placed in a suitable location so that they bring about a small bloodletting.
With the help of leech saliva and the relaxing effect of hirudin, the outflow of blood is stimulated from the naturopathic perspective and wound healing is improved.
Application / therapy / diagnostic options
There is an acceleration of the lymphatic drainage and subsequent bleeding in the bite area of the leeches. Experience has shown that the healing effects of the active substances in leeches are used in naturopathic practice for many diseases, but mainly for vein diseases in the leg area, arthrosis, inflammation of all kinds and high blood pressure.
Causes / background & use
The leeches release anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory agents during their use on the patient, of which hirudin is particularly known.
No limits are known. However, it should be noted that local skin reactions can occur, the nature of which may vary from patient to patient. There may be bruises around the bite site, but these usually go away after a few days.
Slight swelling or itching is also possible. In order to be able to precisely assess the patient's reaction, the leech treatment must be carried out under the supervision of the practitioner.