For those with circulatory problems, leg ulcers can be a serious problem. A wound forms that refuses to heal, and as dead tissue around the site increases, the risk of infection and continued spreading grows.
Today’s treatment is hydrogel, which slowly removes the dead skin and allows healing to begin. Today, the press is abuzz with the news that a new study on maggot therapy had been released.(I've spared you the pictures).
The headlines are interesting. While most of the media got the story right with headlines that sound like: “Maggot Therapy No Better than Gel,” others seem to think maggot therapy is news, and announced “Maggots 'as successful at treating leg ulcers as standard dressings.'” Same study, same results: different headlines.
So yes, we’ve bumped into the old phenomenon of editors wanting to increase readership. I have to say, this is a very mild case, as nearly all the articles report the correct bottom line: maggots are not the best therapy for leg ulcers.
While many of us may find the idea disgusting, maggot therapy is not new. The concept is simple: maggots (fly larvae) eat only dead flesh, so if you apply them to a wound, they will very effectively remove all the dead flesh while leaving the living flesh clean and ready to heal. This was even shown in the movie “Gladiator.” Gross? Maybe... but if it works, grossness shouldn't be a major concern.
While maggot therapy does debride (remove dead flesh from) the wounds faster than hydrogel, it costs the same, has the same rate of infection, and ultimately has the same rate of healing as hyrdrogel. When you add in the fact that maggot therapy is more painful and MUCH more likely to cause patient discomfort (in the form of “agg! I’ve got maggots eating me!!), maggot therapy is NOT recommended.
So right now, hydrogel seems to be a winner. But if you’re in Africa with limited access to health care, maggots are a good option.