The black mamba is known for its notorious potent neurotoxic venom. For this reason, their bites are often erroneously treated in the field with the application of a tourniquet in the hope of delaying systemic spread of the venom. Observational studies have shown that inappropriate tourniquet application is a common, harmful practice. An arterial tourniquet is not a recommended first aid measure because of the risk of limb ischemia and gangrene. When inappropriately applied, the rapid removal of the tourniquet in the emergency department may precipitate a life-threatening venom and metabolic toxin rush, leading to respiratory arrest. We present two cases of black mamba bites in Gauteng, South Africa, where gradual tourniquet removal was used to avoid a venom rush and rapid respiratory paralysis. Venom and metabolic toxin rush with potentially fatal respiratory muscle paralysis may be averted by gradual, cautious removal of field-applied tourniquets with concomitant antivenom administration.
Address correspondence to Ratang Pholosho Pelle, Emergency Department, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Prinsoff, Gauteng, South Africa. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org