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A 63-year-old Vietnamese woman who recently underwent a laparoscopic procedure to have a tumour from her throat removed was shocked to hear that the doctors removed a six-inch leech from her throat instead. The parasite had reportedly been living in the woman’s throat for about three months.
The unnamed woman from Vietnam’s mountainous Ha Giang Province had been complaining about severe headaches, frequent nasal congestion and a constant sensation of mucous fluid flowing down the throat, for several weeks. She eventually checked into a local hospital where ENT (ear nose and throat) specialists performed various tests and discovered an unidentified mass in her throat. The woman was scheduled for laparoscopic surgery to have the mass – believed to be a tumour – removed, but during the procedure, doctors were shocked to find a live leech attached to the woman’s throat.
In a video shot by Dr. Nguyen Thanh Nam, Deputy Director at a hospital in Ha Giang, and shared with the patient’s consent, you can see the six-inch leech wriggling on a medical tray after being removed from the woman’s throat. It’s unclear exactly how it got there, but doctors suspect that the unnamed woman accidentally ingested it while bathing in or drinking spring water. Judging by the duration of the symptoms described by the patient, Dr. Thanh Nam estimates that the blood-sucking parasite must have been living in the woman’s throat for at least 3 months.
Doctors said that this kind of case is extremely rare and tough to diagnose properly. If not removed, the leech could have moved up the woman’s sinuses and caused excruciating headaches and facial pain, or could have moved towards the larynx, causing life-threatening breathing problems.