Doctors in Vietnam are still scratching their heads after removing a dozen maggots from under the scalp of a patient who had been complaining of headaches. One doctor says the maggots may have saved the man’s life.
Dr. Nguyen Duc Anh at Hanoi’s Viet Duc Hospital recently told Thanh Nien News that the maggots were living on the man’s skull near where Malaysian doctors had previously implanted a titanium plate.
The man, identified by the Daily Mail as Pham Quang Lanh, reportedly had the plate implanted three years earlier after being struck with a metal bar on a job site.
Lanh was quoted as saying he has suffered from occasional headaches ever since the surgery.
“It was mostly OK until a year ago when I noticed it was swollen and sore to touch,” he said. “I didn't want to go to hospital again because I hoped it would heal on its own and even now three years later I'm still paying the bill back for the last operation.”
As the pain grew more intense, however, family members inspected his skull and noticed maggots crawling under the skin, ultimately convincing him to go to the hospital.
Anh said the spot on the skull was sore because of a lingering infection that had gotten worse.
“In fact, the reason that it was swollen was because it was infected and eventually some tissue had died, leaving him with the festering injury,” Anh said. “When we took him into surgery, we discovered several maggots, which were removed.”
“We then needed to carry out a full operation to remove the maggots that had managed to go deeper,” he added.
Anh said maggot infestations in surgical wounds on the head are extremely rare and that he could only find eight references to such infestations in medical literature. All patients in those cases had died, but the titanium plate likely saved Lanh.
“In this man's case, however, the maggots had not gone on to eat any of his brain because of the metal plate,” Anh said.
Strangely enough, the maggots might saved his life as well.
“They actually may have kept him alive by eating the dead tissue that might otherwise have made the infection spread more quickly and killed him,” Anh said.