What to do if you are bitten by a snake

December 01, 2010

Rosemont, Ill. - Should you be the victim of a snakebite, the best thing you can do is get to a hospital as quickly as possible, according to a new review article from the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS). Current medical treatments, including new medications and surgery, if necessary, are far more effective for snakebites than anything you can do on your own.

"Previous generations of antivenin medications were notorious for causing negative systemic reactions," says Adam W. Anz, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC. "But the antivenins we have available today can not only help avoid long-term damage from the snake venom, but they can also prevent the need for more invasive medical treatment."

Snakebite symptoms can range from pain, swelling, and bruising to an irregular heartbeat, paralysis, and muscle twitching.

Surgery is very rarely, yet sometimes necessary to treat damage incurred from a snakebite, in cases where severe swelling compromises blood flow. This is not the only reason that orthopaedic surgeons are often consulted on these types of injuries.

"Orthopaedic surgeons are experts in regard to treating the extremities, and the hands and feet are the parts of the body most often bitten by snakes," says Dr. Anz. "This is why it is important for orthopaedic surgeons and the public to know about the effects of venom and the best ways to treat snakebites."

Tips for avoiding snakebites: If you are bitten: Relevant facts and statistics:
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Disclosure: Dr. Koman or an immediate family member serves as a board member, owner, officer, or committee member of DT Scimed and KeraNetics; serves as a paid consultant to or is an employee of DT Scimed; has received research or institutional support from Data Trace, Allergan, Biomet, DT Scimed, Johnson & Johnson, KeraNetics, Smith & Nephew, Synthes, Wright Medical Technology, and Zimmer; has stock or stock options held in Wright Medical Technology; and has received nonincome support (such as equipment or services), commercially derived honoraria, or other non-research-related funding (such as paid travel) from Data Trace, DT Scimed, and KeraNetics. Dr. Anz, Dr. Schweppe, Dr. Halvorson, Dr. Bushnell, and Dr. Sternberg have nothing related to this study to disclose.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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