Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments

But while larval therapy works well, study says there's no rush to abandon standard care

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FRIDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- The use of maggots to treat leg ulcers is similar to standard hydrogel therapy in terms of health benefits and costs, according to British researchers.

Debridement (removal of dead tissue from the ulcer surface) helps promote healing and is a common part of treatment for leg ulcers, chronic wounds most often caused by diseased veins. While a hydrogel is commonly used for debridement, it's been suggested the maggots (larval therapy) debride wounds more quickly, stimulate healing and reduce infection.

In the first randomized controlled trial of larval therapy, researchers studied 267 patients with at least one leg ulcer with dead tissue. The patients were randomly selected to receive either loose larvae, bagged larvae or hydrogel and were monitored for up to one year.

Compared to hydrogel, larval therapy significantly reduced the time to debridement, but there was little difference in time to ulcer healing, health-related quality of life or levels of bacteria.

While larval therapy is more effective at debriding than hydrogel, there's no evidence that larval therapy should be recommended for routine use on leg ulcers with dead tissue with the goal of speeding healing or reducing levels of bacteria, the researchers said.

In a separate analysis, the researchers concluded that larval therapy and hydrogel have similar cost-effectiveness.

The findings were published online March 20 in BMJ.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on skin ulcers. Think Harder offers guidance on finding a doctor who will prescribe maggot therapy.

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