Medical leeches help some botched cosmetic surgery patients heal

By Cathy Tatom - Investigative Producer

HOUSTON - Are you thinking of having a little nip or tuck to improve your appearance? You're not alone -- 17.5 million folks had a little work done last year.

That is up 2 percent over the year before, and 200 percent since the year 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

The group says the most popular cosmetic procedures are breast augmentation, liposuction and nose reshaping.

Occasionally, a cosmetic procedure gets botched. To fix what might otherwise become a permanent disfigurement, plastic surgeons sometimes enlist the help of leeches  For centuries, the tiny bloodsuckers have triggered feelings of disgust and revulsion. However, when used medically, they can help save tissue that might otherwise die and be lost. 

"They're excellent little animals! Amazing little animals," said Dr. Jacob Freiman. "The FDA considers them a device, probably the only animal considered a device."

Beauty blogger Shari Manchon credits leeches with literally saving her face after a botched nose job. "My nose started to get ice cold and I looked in the mirror and it kind of turned a little blue."

Manchon was at risk of having the tip of her nose die because blow flow to it was blocked. Applying leeches helped restore circulation to the area. 

Dr. Freiman explained how it works. 

"Leeches use their three sets of razor-sharp teeth to latch onto a wound and start sucking, which gets the blood flowing again," Freiman said.

As far as Manchon is concerned, "Without a doubt, leeches saved the tip."

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