The treatment of crotalid envenomation without antivenin

J Trauma. 1988 Jan;28(1):35-43. doi: 10.1097/00005373-198801000-00005.


Eighty-one patients were treated for crotalid envenomation over the past 12 years at the Ben Taub General Hospital, Houston. Bites were inflicted by copperheads (56%), water moccasins (15%), and rattlesnakes (12%). In 17% of patients the species of snake was not identified. Using a grading scale of one to four from minimal to severe envenomation, 54% were grade I, 29% grade II, 7% grade III, 6% grade IV, and 4% were not graded because the patients were seen more than 12 hours after envenomation and not evaluated by other physicians. Five patients received one dose (10 cc) of crotalid antivenin each before transfer to our Emergency Center. All patients were treated with intravenous fluids, antibiotics, tetanus prophylaxis, immobilization of the injured part, and elevation of the extremity to the level of the heart. No patients received antivenin or excisional therapy at this institution and one minor digital fasciotomy was performed. There were no deaths or amputations in this series. Eight patients developed superficial necrosis of the skin but only one required a skin graft. Three patients developed hematologic abnormalities and were treated with either platelet transfusions or fresh-frozen plasma. One patient required dopamine for hypotension refractory to fluid resuscitation. This experience supports a conservative approach to venomous snakebites and raises the question about the need to utilize traditional therapy for snakebites caused by species seen in our locality.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Crotalid Venoms / poisoning*
  • Emergencies*
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Humans
  • Immobilization
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Snake Bites / classification
  • Snake Bites / complications
  • Snake Bites / physiopathology
  • Snake Bites / therapy*
  • Tetanus Toxoid / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Crotalid Venoms
  • Tetanus Toxoid