What is maggot therapy?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
If you're worried that opting for maggot therapy will cast you in a starring role for a remake of The Fly, don't be. Medical maggots (fly larvae) won't take over your body. They're completely disinfected, sterile, and only interested in dining on dead tissue around a wound, which encourages new, healthy tissue to grow in its place.

You may have a treatment a couple of times a day or receive a "dressing" that stays on for 24 to 48 hours. In both cases, 30 to 50 larvae are sealed tightly against each square inch or so of the wound. Usually you can't feel anything, unless exposed nerves in the wound are already causing pain -- in which case you may feel the creatures' movements, but pain relievers should take care of that.

Don't imagine that these tiny, squirmy critters will burrow anywhere they shouldn't. Once they're done helping you heal, all they want to do is get on with the business of turning into a fly. Unfortunately for them, when they've completed their medical mission, they're treated just like any other medical waste and quickly disposed of.

This larvae-lunch therapy helps heal things like bed sores, surgical wounds, and diabetic ulcers. Diabetes can foster festering wounds because poor circulation hinders healing, and nerve damage can let sores appear without any pain. If the wound won't heal, it can lead to the amputation of a toe, foot, or leg. But maggot therapy, approved by the FDA in 2004, could put you back on the dance floor.

So learn to love the healing powers of these baby bugs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.