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Doctors Use Leeches To Reattach Severed Ear

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Doctors used the leeches to clean the severed portion of the ear before reattachment. (Image credit: New England Journal of Medicine)

Doctors used the leeches to clean the severed portion of the ear before reattachment. (Image credit: New England Journal of Medicine)

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PROVIDENCE (CBS Connecticut) – Doctors in Rhode Island turned to an ancient medical practice to help reattach a 19-year-old woman’s ear…leeches.

“The body is very efficient at making new arteries and veins, so the leeches are temporary,” Sullivan said. “They act as temporary drainage for the ear while the ear makes its own new veins.”

For more than two weeks, the woman stayed in the hospital with leeches attached to her left ear, draining away deoxygenated blood.

At first, a leech treatment often alarms patients, Sullivan said. “Nature has worked for a long, long time to make a leech, and we do not have something we’ve invented as scientists, engineers or doctors that has done better than what nature has done.”.

Ear reattachment is challenging because of the extensive network of veins and arteries that feed the pinnae and only a few dozen successful reattachments have been recorded.

The scar is almost completely invisible.

“Every time she puts her hair back in a ponytail, she is going to do it without even pausing,” said Sullivan. “You see her now, and you would never know that has happened to her.”

The report is published in the New England Journal of Medicine

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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