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Maggots for Wound Care: are They Useful?

The next time you need a wound debrided, don’t be surprised if your doctor enlists the help of maggots. Using maggots for wound care appears to be an inexpensive, safe, and natural way to clean up the dead tissue. Here’s how and why.

It may sound a bit unorthodox but one of the most effective ways to debride dead tissue from a wound is by using maggots. Yes, it’s true. The medical and surgical community has formed an alliance with the maggot for wound care and most physicians and surgeons are raving about the results. It seems these tiny creatures do their job well when it comes to cleaning up dead tissue. Although it may sound like a scene from a horror movie, using maggots to do the job of wound debridement reduces the need for antibiotics which often carry side effects. It also provides a solution to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. It’s a completely natural way to sterilize a wound.

This isn’t the first time maggots have been used for wound care and tissue debridement. This practice dates back to Renaissance times and has often been used during times of war for debridement of wounds after it was discovered that using maggots gave better results than any of the other treatments they had available. Although maggots have been used throughout history to for wound care, it wasn’t until 2004 that the FDA approved the production and marketing of maggots for use in the treatment of wounds and ulcers.

In modern times, maggots used for wound care and tissue debridement are grown in special facilities and carefully disinfected before being being placed on a wound site. To debride an area, they’re applied directly to the wound using a special dressing that allows them the freedom move around and feed on the dead tissue. Several treatments may be required to completely clean up a wound.

How do they perform? Maggots have remarkable accuracy when it comes to selecting dead, devitalized tissue that needs to be removed while leaving the health, viable tissue intact. They also produce secretions with anti-microbial properties that prevent growth of bacteria in the region of the wound, further disinfecting it.

Of course using maggots can bring problems relating to patient cooperation. After all, most people don’t visit their doctor’s office to have live, squirming maggots placed on their skin. Surprisingly, patients feel very little when maggots are used for wound care. Maggots devour tissue using a special process whereby enzymes break down the dead tissue into a gelatinous liquid which is devoured by the maggots. The patient is completely unaware of this process. This can allay some of the fears of patients who imagine maggots greedily gnawing away at their flesh.

Using maggots for wound care and debridement is a win-win situation for patients and maggots. The patient gets his or her wound cleaned quickly and efficiently and the maggot gets a good meal. Who could ask for more?

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