Maggots avoid Tucson woman’s operation

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – It’s scary season for creepy critters, but maggots? Tucson Medical Center recently used them to prevent a patient from having surgery. This is a method that could be used more.

“She had injuries on both sides of both ankles, very serious injuries, and she had several health issues that made her immunocompromised,” said Dr Erika Huston, podiatrist on call at TMC.

Dr Huston and nurse practitioner Ashlee Garcia treated a woman who had infections in her leg and arrived with live maggots on one of them, giving the medical team an idea.

“My original plan was to take him to surgery to clean up and remove the maggots and all the dead tissue,” Dr Huston said. “(I) took the bandage off the next day, and the maggots had cleaned the wound significantly… so I said,” Let’s see if we can do it while she’s here. “”

“With maggots, they are very selective. So they only eat the dead tissue and the wound basically stays the same size, ”said Ashlee Garcia, wound care nurse practitioner.

By ordering and carefully placing medical maggots, that is, maggots reared in a sterile environment, on the patient, the patient’s injuries did not increase or worsen, they improved.

“A lot of times they don’t need to be operated on because the maggots have already done my job for me,” Dr Huston said.

The maggots are carefully placed and left for about two days, during which they eat the dead tissue. It is a well-known practice, but not overused. It had been about 15 years since TMC had ordered and used maggots on a patient. The biggest obstacle, often, is the patient reluctance to use the maggots on their wounds.

“I would say at a minimum (they) double in size within 48 hours,” Garcia said. “She was very open to it, she didn’t mind that much, she didn’t want to watch the process, but she really agreed with the concept.”

The patient was given an IV antibiotic to fight infection, and the medical team urges people NOT to try and treat wounds with maggots themselves.

“Free-range maggots, as we call them, aren’t sterile, you don’t want to stick your foot out and hope a fly lands on it… it’s not hygienic,” Dr Huston said.

The patient has since been discharged and is completing the last part of his recovery at home. It’s a process that this team hopes they can use more, allowing patients to recover faster and avoid surgery.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.


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