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Leeches save lorry driver’s leg

An intensive course of leech therapy has helped save the leg of a lorry driver injured in a freak accident. David Isitt needed more than 30 leeches over a week to suck blood out of a large skin flap on his leg where the skin was struggling to survive.

Mr Isitt, from the Isle of Dogs, faced amputation if the treatment failed – but he is now standing on both legs again, and learning to walk unaided. The treatment was carried out at the Royal London Hospital. Mr Isitt was injured in March when he slipped off the side of his tipper truck while checking that his cargo of concrete was secure. He fell nearly 2.5m onto the road and shattered several major bones in his right leg. He was taken by Air Ambulance to the Royal London, where he underwent the first of several major orthopaedic operations by expert surgeons to save his leg.

A final operation involved a specialist plastic surgeon moving a large skin flap to the front of Mr Isitt’s leg to cover the newly repaired bone. In complicated procedures such as this it is sometimes difficult to maintain a normal blood flow in the skin flap – and the tip of Mr Isitt’s skin flap started to go blue. 

At this point that the clinical nurse specialist, Daren Edwards decided to use leeches to save the skin flap. The animals can draw the blood away from the skin which allows it to survive long enough for the veins to start working normally again.

Mr Isitt said: “I was a bit surprised when they suggested using leeches but they are the experts so I trusted their judgement.”

Within days colour returned to the skin flap but in total the leeches were needed for more than a week to restore effective circulation of the blood. Mr Edwards said: “I’ve used them before but not over such a long period and that is a reflection of the seriousness of Mr Isitt’s injuries. “At worst, the fracture may have become infected, and he may have lost that leg.”