Leech therapy for epidermoid cysts and review of the literature


1 Skin and Stem Cell Research Center, Department of Dermatology, Tehran University of Medical Sciences; Department of Dermatology, Rasoul-e Akram Hospital, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Skin Diseases and Leishmaniasis Research Center, Department of Dermatology, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan; Department of Dermatology, Rasoul-e Akram Hospital, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

3 Skin and Stem Cell Research Center, Department of Dermatology, Tehran University of Medical Sciences; Rasoul-e Akram Hospital, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Hirudo medicinalis sucks blood directly through the external mammalian skin. We recently observed a healthy 64-year-old Iranian man, who presented with numerous asymptomatic multilobular oval-to-round well-defined 0.5 to 1.5 cm cystic lesions with central umbilication (central black eschar) over the upper portion of his chest. We made the diagnosis of epidermoid cyst, giant comedone and leech bite on the basis of the constellation of clinical features. The patient was treated with oral ciprofloxacin at a dose of 2 g daily, and 2% topical erythromycin solution. Despite improvement, the evidence of cystic lesions persisted. There was no history of similar lesions in any other family member. There was no history of trauma. The patient was not using any topical or systemic medication. Two weeks before his visit, he had a history of leech therapy under the supervision of a general practitioner. His medical history was significant for leech therapy of the lesions, five days previously. He was followed up for another two weeks and after disappearance of the inflammation, with the patient under local anesthesia, the well-circumscribed mass was completely evacuated with a sharp curette and comedone extractor. The patient was subsequently lost to follow-up. Conclusion: Considering the efficacy of leeches, it would be favorable to breed a germ-free leech. In Iran, the use of the leeches in surgery, in recent years, has been infrequent. It appears that the positive effects of this ancient remedy may now be explained through scientific methods, promising potentially even more uses of this admirable creature in medicine.


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