Mechanisms of Leech Therapy

The leech's ability to sustain venous blood flow, in compromised skin flaps, is currently unmatched by any other means. The leech performs its service by physically evacuating blood and ensuring continued blood flow long after the leech detaches. The shape of the leech incision and substances in its saliva keep the blood flowing.

A leech can usually suck an average of 5 milliliters (ml) of blood within 15 to 60 minutes, but the real effect comes after the leech detaches. The bite can continue to bleed for up to 48 hours, releasing as much as 50 ml of blood. Usually treatments are carried out for 3 to 7 days, occasionally as long as 10 days. When the skin stays pink after leech therapy and venous oozing stops, the leech therapy can usually be discontinued.

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Hirudin is one anti-clotting agent found in leech saliva.

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