The Treatment of Snake Bite

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  • Poisonous Animals Research Laboratory, Arizona State College, Tempe, Arizona


Tissue destruction, not death, is stressed as the major medical problem arising from snake bite in the United States. Case histories are presented contrasting the effects of pit-viper bite when treated with or without cryotherapy. A seven-step regimen to prevent death and tissue destruction through the use of ligature and cryotherapy is presented. Emphasis is placed on the importance of using iced water initially, followed by a complete and continuous coverage of the envenomed member with finely divided ice. It is also stressed that success in the use of cryotherapy is dependent upon a careful consideration of the ambient temperature. Supporting therapy is also suggested stressing the following: (a) a more effective and conservative use of incision and suction; (b) the possibilities of increased tissue destruction by the improper use of antivenin; (c) a warning against utter disregard of the principle of chemical compatibility when selecting supporting therapeutic agents. A documented discussion of the wide margin of safety involved when using cryotherapy and the value of the ligature are given in conclusion.

Author Notes

1031 Fifth Avenue, New York 28, N. Y.

Miami, Arizona

Brooke Army Hospital, Fort Sam Houston, Texas