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Clinical experience in the therapy of bites from exotic snakes in Berlin.

Author(s): Koppel C, Martens F

Affiliation(s): Medical Intensive Care Unit, Universitatsklinikum Rudolf Virchow, Freie Universitat Berlin, Germany.

Publication date & source: 1992-11, Hum Exp Toxicol., 11(6):549-52.

Since there are nearly no indigenous poisonous snakes in Germany, snake bites by poisonous snakes are rare. Most serious snake bites reported to poison information centres or treated at hospitals are caused by exotic snakes that are kept in private households. Only few types of antivenom are stored in emergency depots in Germany including polyvalent antivenoms from commercial sources. Since experience with the treatment of poisonous snake bites is limited, the records of the Intensive Care Unit and the Poison Information Centre of the Universitatsklinikum Rudolf Virchow from 1980-1991 were evaluated. During this period, 51 snake bites were reported. Eleven patients who had been bitten by exotic poisonous snakes were treated in intensive care. In eight of the cases, ethanol (blood levels on admission 1.2-4.2 g-1) had played an important role in the cause of the bite. A moderate to severe local inflammation at the site of the bite followed by oedema and necrosis was typical. One patient developed respiratory failure, probably because of the neurotoxic effects of the snake venom and a compartment syndrome necessitating fasciotomy. Haemolysis was observed in four patients and coagulopathy in six patients. All patients received polyvalent antivenom within 2-12 h of the snake bite. Despite serious coagulopathy in two of the patients and respiratory arrest in one, all survived without sequelae.

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