Detroit doctors plug unstoppable nosebleed with cured pork

bacon
Flickr/shawnzam

(CBS) A 4-year-old girl went to a Detroit hospital with a life-threatening nosebleed that just wouldn't stop. Doctors tried everything, from medications to multiple surgeries, but her nose kept bleeding and time was running out.

What happened next? A piece of cured salted pork helped save this girl's life, CBS Detroit WWJ reported.

Is cured pork a home remedy for the common nosebleed?

Not exactly, says Dr. Ian Humphreys, the girl's ear, nose, and throat doctor at Detroit Medical Center's Children's Hospital of Michigan. He told HealthPop that this girl's case was a rare exception. In other words, "Do not try this at home."

The girl had an extremely rare blood disorder called Glanzmann's thrombasthenia that affects one out of one million individuals, according to Humphreys. The disease prevents blood platelets from working properly to clot blood, so a simple nosebleed can turn into a scary problem.

Humphreys said the girl's bleeding continued for seven days, while doctors performed two operations without avail. Other medical therapies doctors considered caused serious side effects, such as risk for permanent blindness, which they really wanted to avoid since the girl was so young.

Enter Dr. Walter Belenky, the chair of the hospital's otolaryngology department with 41 years experience in the field. Belenky remembered reading how salty pork was used to plug unstoppable bleeding in the 18th and 19th centuries, so Humprhreys ran it by the girl's parents who agreed to give it a try.

Make no mistake - doctors did not simply shove a piece of pork up the girl's nose. They cut a 1 inch x 1 inch x 1/4 inch square and placed it over the blood vessel in a surgical setting. The doctors also gave the girl antibiotics so she wouldn't get an infection from the raw meat. The bleeding soon stopped, and the girl was released from the hospital 72 hours later.

"I can't prove it with causality" Humphreys told Healthpop, but the pork seemed to do the trick. When the girl came back two months later with an unstoppable nosebleed, doctors immediately turned to the cure meat and she was released within 48 hours. Humphreys isn't sure what exactly about the pork stopped the bleeding, but he thinks the high salt concentration may have caused the blood vessels to swell which slowed bleeding, or the pork may contain proteins that somehow work well with the rare disease.

The case is described in the Nov. issue of the Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology.

Humphreys says the case is a great example of how a team of doctors can come together to "come to a historic solution for a contemporary problem." But as for the general public, putting raw meat in your nose is not a safe idea for your next nosebleed.

Said Humphreys, "We do not recommend this for the 99 percent of America of nosebleeds we encounter on a daily basis."