From Poop Transplant To Leech Therapy: Bizarre But Surprisingly Effective Medical Procedures

Posted on July 29, 2015 in Health and Life

By Vaagisha Das

We have been taught to share many things in order to show our care. Faecal matter would definitely not be one of them. Yet this is what Raahil Batin’s father found himself doing to help treat his son, who had contracted inflammatory bowel disease. Faecal transplant, or to put it in layman terms, poop transfer, is exactly what it sounds like – transporting human waste from a ‘healthy’ donor to a patient with intestinal problems.

Bacteria, contrary to popular belief and overzealous use of anti-bacterial soaps, are not all your typical garden variety of harmful parasites. Some bacteria found in the intestine are immensely useful in food digestion, and their absence may cause the entire process to go haywire. This made doctors come up with an obvious solution- cram the required bacteria, along with the complimentary poop, into the patient’s intestine. Okay, maybe not exactly cram it- there are more scientific methods. Or one could go down the not so beaten track of popping ‘poop pills‘, courtesy advanced medical science. Some phrases of the English language will never be the same again.

Continuing the saga of terrifying yet fascinating medical treatments, here are a few more, ranging from ‘hey, that could actually work’ to ‘how is that actually working?!’

Leech Therapy: Earlier proposed by Sushruta in 800 B.C., leeches were considered the premium treatment procedure for anything involving skin diseases, to fever or inflammations. In a style reminiscent of fashion trends, this medieval practice has come round again as a popular and effective way to drain blood from the body after reconstructive surgery. Anticoagulant properties of the leech saliva make them unique – these bloodsuckers have been around a lot longer than vampires, and are far less sparkly.

Bone Stretching: Ask the kid hanging from the bars in the Complan ad – growing taller is mainly in your genes, and once you’re stuck at 5′ 1″, there is not much you can do. Except that now there is. Not the most pleasant ‘treatment’, this procedure requires breaking bones in order to make them longer. A brace is placed between the two pieces of bone, and regenerated tissue fills the gap in due time, which later forms the perfectly healthy bone. This is also called distraction osteogenesis– because when in doubt, confuse people with science.

Hemispherectomy: A rare process involving the removal of half of the entire brain- no, this is very different from a lobotomy, though it does involve amputation of a part of the brain, mainly the ‘problematic’ area. This would be the localised part where epilepsy and seizures originate, and then the surges spread across the entire brain, much like ripples across the surface of water. Sure, it’s a throwback to when hacking away the problem might have been a surgeon’s favourite, but even with ‘half’ a brain, the patient will likely live to function effectively – the rest of the brain adapts to carry out the function of the missing part, and the rest of the skull space is filled with fluid. Why take pills when you can simply cut out the problem entirely?

Body Chilling Therapy: Walt Disney was not cryogenically frozen, much to the disappointment of urban legend fans. This is because such a technology does not exist outside of science fiction. However, what does exist is a process where the patient is frozen from the inside out – known as induced hypothermia through central venous infusion, a chilled saline solution, when injected intravenously, does something roughly akin to being lowered into an ice bath- it slows down the person’s bodily functions. The lowered temperature reduces the body’s need for oxygen, which in turn slows down the impending cardiac arrest and gives the patient extra time to be rushed to the hospital.

With such medical procedures already in use, maybe switching brains and ‘upgrading’ to better bodies will no longer be limited to the realm of futuristic movies- but are we quite ready for them? Well, maybe we could hold out for the hoverboards instead.