Surgeons Reattach Woman’s Ear with Help of Blood-Sucking Leeches

If you have a weak stomach this story may not be the easiest to get through as it involves blood, a detached body part and creepy crawlies, but it’s remarkable none-the-less.

After a pit bull mauled a 19-year-old and left her with a small laceration on her arm and completely ripped off her left ear, surgeons had to turn to some pretty unconventional methods to reattach the body part.

Dr. Stephen Sullivan and his team operated on the young woman at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence and found the uneven tear made surgery challenging. According to Live Science, the doctors found a tiny artery only 0.3 millimeters in diameter, which allowed them to reattach the vessel to the patient’s blood supply. However, they couldn’t find a vein to drain the blood back to the body.

That’s when they turned to a FDA-approved technique and brought in the leeches. These blood-sucking worms “act as temporary drainage for the ear while the ear makes its own new veins” said Sullivan after explaining, “The body is very efficient at making new arteries and veins, so the leeches are temporary […] 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.”

It took over two weeks for the patient to recover with the leeches, but over time she was fully weaned off the worms. Today the scar is barely visible and the woman didn’t suffer any hearing loss as the attack only affected her outer ear.

The unusual case, one of only about 50 ever performed using leeches, is reported in the April 17th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Check the video above for the news clip.