Worm therapy works for him
THE first thing he thought of when he heard the words "maggot therapy" was an image of a corpse with festering wounds.
Retiree Velusamy Odiathavar, 60, admitted that he became alarmed when podiatrist John Moody at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) suggested this form of therapy last year.
Maggot medicine is a tried-and-tested therapy which dates back to the 1800s, when it was used to help heal battlefield wounds.
Today, the therapy makes use of the larvae on people having trouble with their wounds.
TTSH, which is part of the National Healthcare Group, was the first to offer this therapy in 2008. Mr Moody said he now sees up to four patients a month for maggot therapy.
National University Hospital (NUH), which introduced it in early 2010 as part of a multidisciplinary limb-salvage programme under the vascular surgery department, sees about 40 to 50 patients undergo the treatment every month, said Lynn Toh, a podiatrist at NUH.
While there are other ways of removing dead tissue from a wound, like going under the knife, using maggots takes away any surgical risk, Ms Toh said.
Mr Velusamy got his wound after his sixth angioplasty last year. Both his legs swelled post-surgery, but the diabetic retiree continued squeezing his feet into his shoes.
He soon developed a pressure ulcer on the back of his left heel, but did not do anything about it.
Diabetic patients like him are more prone to developing pressure ulcers.
Within two weeks, Mr Velusamy's wound became infected and needed immediate attention.
Sharing his reaction when he heard about the treatment method, he said: "I was really quite worried. Maggots eat dead bodies."
He went ahead with the treatment only after Mr Moody allayed his fears and explained what the maggots would do - nibble on the dead tissue.
A National Healthcare Group spokesman said that maggot therapy starts from about $300.
A vial of maggots is emptied onto a wound before it is covered by a dressing.
While these 2mm-long microsurgeons do most of the work over a two- to three-day cycle, the success of maggot therapy is greatly dependent on a patient's compliance, said Mr Moody.
This includes changing the dressing every three hours.
"When the maggots eat, they also excrete, making the wound wet," he explained.
"If it gets too wet, it can harbour bacteria. The maggots may also drown."
Patients should avoid exerting pressure on the wound, Mr Moody added.
Mr Velusamy had been afraid that the therapy would be a painful experience, but the retiree did not feel the maggots nibbling away at his dead skin at all.
Mr Moody, who treated him, said that the sensation differs from person to person.
Mr Velusamy said he did not see the maggots at work and added: "I'd rather not see it."
THE NEW PAPER