DÄ internationalArchive15/2019Admirable Use of Leeches
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Congratulations! Sucker worms help with chronic back pain, is the conclusion of a scientific paper (1) on patients treated with leeches. But joking aside, what appears to be useful and worth thinking about is not the memory of a medieval therapy option, but that the back school used for comparison (with a total of four hours divided into four weeks, for 19 patients) proved to be largely ineffective—and this against an astonishing and lasting success story of using an average of seven blood-sucking leeches (in a simultaneous and one-time suction action of the seven leaches, lasting about 24 hours). Admittedly, the expectations of the 25 worm-treated patients was estimated to be relatively high. The mechanism of action has not yet been finally clarified. The saliva of the animals contains more than 100 biologically active substances. Due to the statistically determined highly significant p-value (0.0018), the study could be (apparently prematurely) terminated despite the small number of participants.

It is amazing what possibilities scientifically trained therapists come up with when faced with the general symptoms of chronic back pain. For the leeches, their admirable effort may well have been a hangman‘s meal. Maybe a case for the ethics committee!

DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2019.0267b

Dr. med. Helmut Barz

Bad Doberan, Germany helmutbarz@gmx.de

Conflict of interest statement

The author declares that no conflict of interest exists.

1.
Hohmann CD, Stange R, Steckhan N, Robens S, Ostermann T, Paetow A, Michalsen A: The effectiveness of leech therapy in chronic low back pain—a randomized controlled trial. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2018; 115: 785–92 VOLLTEXT
1.Hohmann CD, Stange R, Steckhan N, Robens S, Ostermann T, Paetow A, Michalsen A: The effectiveness of leech therapy in chronic low back pain—a randomized controlled trial. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2018; 115: 785–92 VOLLTEXT

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