Perhaps our ancestors' medical knowledge was not so primitive after all. Long-discarded medical procedures of the eighteenth century are now returning. Leeches, those bloodsucking worms from medical procedures of yore, are enjoying renewed popularity among today's high-tech surgeons. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration is trying to establish guidelines about how the creatures should be safely grown, transported, and sold.
Leeches, it turns out, are particularly good at draining excess blood from surgically reattached or transplanted appendages. As microsurgeons tackle feats like reattaching hands, scalps, and even faces, leeches have become indispensable.
Another revived practice involves the use of the larvae of flies. Maggots clean festering wounds that fail to heal, as happens among diabetics, better than almost anything in use. However, the use of maggots in the United States has been slight, in part because of squeamishness.
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