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As a resident of Joplin & having some heavily wooden property behind my home, it is normal to find a snake or two sunning themselves during the summer months. Then, there is the copper head that thinks he owns part of my back yard. While growing up in the Texas panhandle, western diamond back rattlesnakes were common, & of course, because they were from Texas, they were huge!
There are some recent studies from out outside the US that suggest a new approach on the treatment of snakebites, one of them presented in Toxicol Int. 2015 Jan-Apr; 22(1): 104–109doi: 10.4103/0971-6580.172287'.
But first, let's examine a snakebite, this is the way that a snake eats. The venom they inject services to immobilize their prey, & because snakes have a poor digestion processes, the venom also services as a form of pre-digestion with enzymes that break down tissues make the prey easier to digest. We humans are not prey, & sometimes, we simply get in the way. We are bitten because a snake is simply protecting themselves.
There are some 2,000 species of snakes known, with about 400 known poisonous species. The toxicity of the poison varies from species to species, some are hemolytic (breaking down of the red blood cells) while others are neurotoxic (poisonous to the nervous tissue). The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 125,000 deaths occur annually with approximately 250,000 bites annually. That is a 50 percent death rate. Significant disfigurement can occur at the point of injection in those that survive.
India, which accounts for approximately 10,000 deaths annually, has studied a new multidiscipline approach in treating snakebites. Injuries from bites may include cellulitis, gangrene at the bite area, bleeding manifestations, compartment syndrome, regional lymphadenopathy, septicemia, hypotension, and disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. This study was designed to utilize a multidisciplinary approach in the management of snakebite injuries of the extremities with a myriad of treatment modalities including HBOT, surgical debridement, and soft tissue reconstruction to provide an effective treatment for snakebite injuries. The outcome was significant, and demonstrated that the inclusion of HBOT in the treatment of snakebites improves the overall outcome of the patient & their recovery with less disfigurement.
Then there is the veterinarian in Winter Haven, Florida, that has taken this study to heart, he has incorporated the protocols outlined in this study into his practice. During an interview I had with this physician, he revealed that in Florida, that one major problem they have are dogs being bitten by eastern diamond back rattlesnakes and cotton mouths. By incorporating the protocols in his treatment, he has been able to replicate the success of the study. Yes, there is of course some controversies and more studies are indicated, but it appears that HBOT may have a place in the treatment of snakebites.