Clinical effects and antivenom use for snake bite victims treated at three us hospitals in Afghanistan

Jason D. Heiner, Vikhyat S. Bebarta, Shawn M. Varney, Jason D. Bothwell, Aaron J. Cronin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective Annually, more than 100,000 US and international military and civilian personnel work in Afghanistan within terrain harboring venomous snakes. Current literature insufficiently supports Afghan antivenom treatment and stocking guidelines. We report the clinical course and treatments for snakebite victims presenting to US military hospitals in Afghanistan. Methods All snakebite victims presenting to 3 US military emergency departments between July 2010 and August 2011 in northern and southern Afghanistan were examined via chart review. Case information included patient demographics, snake description, bite details and complications, laboratory results, antivenom use and adverse effects, procedures performed, and hospital course. Results Of 17 cases, median patient age was 20 years (interquartile range [IQR], 12-30), 16 were male, and 82% were Afghans. All bites were to an extremity, and median time to care was 2.8 hours (IQR, 2-5.8). On arrival, 8 had tachycardia and none had hypotension or hypoxia. A viper was implicated in 5 cases. Ten cases received at least 1 dose of polyvalent antivenom, most commonly for coagulopathy, without adverse effects. Six received additional antivenom, 6 had an international normalized ratio (INR) > 10, and none developed delayed coagulopathy. Three received blood transfusions. Hospital stay ranged from 1 to 4 days. None required vasopressors, fasciotomy, or other surgery, and none died. All had resolution of marked coagulopathies and improved swelling and pain on discharge. Conclusions We report the largest series of snake envenomations treated by US physicians in Afghanistan. Antivenom was tolerated well with improvement of coagulopathy and symptoms. All patients survived with minimal advanced interventions other than blood transfusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-416
Number of pages5
JournalWilderness and Environmental Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Afghanistan
  • snake antivenom
  • snake envenomation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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