7 Weird and Disgusting Medical Procedures

If you thought bloodletting, maggots and leeches were all outdated in our modern world, you were wrong. In fact, they are only a handful of the many bizarro medical treatments that will leave you both disgusted and fascinated with their effectiveness when you read about strange medical treatments that are actually quite useful.


To be fair, bloodletting is far from a cure-all like medieval doctors believed, but it is still a useful practice in some cases. When someone suffers from excess iron, known as hemochromatosis, bloodletting is an effective means of releasing the built up iron. The treatment is also used to help people who have too many red blood cells in their blood stream, a condition known as polycythemia.

Maggot Therapy

I know most people think the last thing they should ever see at a hospital is a maggot, but they can actually be a quite effective and sanitary way to treat wounds that do not respond to conventional medicinal treatments. The bowfly larvae eat away dead tissue and bacteria, allowing the healthy, living tissue to thrive. "I call them microsurgeons," said Edgar Maeyens, Jr., a doctor in Coos Bay, Oregon, who employs maggot treatment. "They can do what we can't do with scalpels and lasers."

In many cases, the maggots can help treat festering wounds that have been open for weeks, even years, within only a day or two. While the treatment is pretty gross looking, patients rarely feel anything and when they do, it’s generally an itching or tickling sensation and nothing more.

Leech Therapy

Image via OakleyOriginals [Flickr]

What happens when you cross bloodletting and maggot therapy, you get bloodsucking leech therapy. Of course, the leeches aren’t used for everything, including headaches and ear infections, like they were in medieval times; instead they are used to help drain blood from swollen parts of the body after reconstructive surgery. Doctors find they are particularly helpful when the areas contain many blood vessels that can easily clot up, like the ear.

New studies are underway to find the effectiveness of leeches in other treatments, such as the reduction of pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis.

Worm Therapy

Apparently there have been thousands of micro-surgeons swarming the earth before mankind began, we just never had the science to back them up until now. Worm therapy is yet another insect treatment that is quite promising, and incredibly disgusting. The treatment involves the use of a parasitic worm (the type depends on the specific condition) being intentionally released within the patient’s body.

While scientists have still not drawn any firm conclusions as to the effectiveness of this treatment and the reason it seems to work, preliminary studies have been largely favorable in showing the parasites do have a positive effect. The worms have been used in a variety of treatments including celiac disease, Chron’s disease, allergies, asthma, multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis.

Image via AJC1 [Flickr]

Malaria As A Treatment

How did they treat syphilis before antibiotics were discovered? With a little dose of malaria, that’s how. While it sounds crazy, this treatment is relatively effective. The high fever from the malaria kills the syphilis bacteria and malaria can then be treated with quinine.

If you ever find yourself suffering from syphilis and happen to have malaria treatments on hand, but no antibiotics, you can always try this treatment. Otherwise, it has fallen out of favor since we now have safer methods to treat the STD. Even so, it is still used in some parts of the world.

Fecal Bacteroetherapy

Image via psd [Flickr]

If you were grossed out by any of the other treatments so far, then you may want to skip past this probiotic treatment. Fecal bacteroetherapy is exactly what it sounds like, the treatment of certain diseases with fecal mater. It works by transplanting healthy fecal material from a donor and then inserting it anally via enema into the patient. The healthy bacteria from the sample are believed to help restore normality to the patient.

The treatment is considered quite effective for treating severe inflammatory bowel disorder and may be a good alternative treatment for Chron’s disease and a few other conditions.

Smoking Therapy

Image via locator [Flickr]

Smoking is a bad habit in most cases, but people at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson disease may find the benefits to be worth the risks as studies have shown a 50% reduction in these diseases in smokers.

What’s the weirdest treatment you’ve ever undergone?

Source: National Geographic, Live Science, Wikipedia, Neatorama, Health Mad

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I have heard of flesh eating fish that are put into water tubs and people sit in the water while the fish nibble off the bits of debris/necrotic flesh on the patients.
Also - leeches (the best come from Ireland, BTW) have an anticoagulant in their saliva and they were used to treat blood clots because they broke down the clot and allowed the blood to get to the affected area quicker than the body's usual 2-3 weeks process. My mom & I tried to get the doctors to use leeches on my dad when he threw a clot in his leg and they just laughed at us. Now he has 1/2 foot. I still think leeches would have helped him.
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Havent undergone anything too weird but I did have an ex military friend get a little over excited about doing some "field treatment" James Bond style.

I got into a pretty bad car crash but refused to go to the hospital because I did not want to pay for the ride or for someone to dab me with alcohol and send me home. I could walk and I could move everything but my left hand without overwhelming pain (probably out of shock).

I went to the closest friends house, who lacked any kind of first aid kit. So I was put back together with Popsicle sticks, tape, paper towels, frozen food, and vodka.

It took 10 months for all bone bruises to disappear and my hand hurts when it rains but $35 at a grocery store for first aid and replacement frozen peas was WAY better than god knows how much from a hospital.
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I cant remember where, but I heard of a place where people with skin conditions can go sit in a communal bath and have the affected areas treated by blood sucking fish (or swimming creature). Apparently, the blood sucking decreases inflammation and the saliva calms the area.
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