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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Role for Coagulation Markers in Mild Snakebite Envenomations


Introduction: The majority of patients seeking medical treatment for snakebites do not suffer from severe envenomation. However, no guidelines exist for ordering coagulation markers in patients with minimal or moderate envenomation, nor in those who do not receive antivenom. In this study, we sought to determine whether it was possible to limit the practice of ordering coagulation studies to those patients suffering severe envenomation, rattlesnake envenomation, or both.Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed on all cases of crotalid snakebite presenting to an adult emergency department (ED) from April 1998 to June 2006. Each chart was abstracted for patient’s age, gender, type of snake (if known), severity of envenomation at initial presentation, coagulation test results, whether antivenom was administered, and whether the patient was admitted.Results: Over an approximately 8-year period, 131 snakebite cases presented that met the inclusion criteria, of which 35 (26.7%) had some type of coagulation marker abnormality. Limiting coagulation testing to patients suffering severe envenomation or rattlesnake envenomation would have resulted in failure to identify 89% or 77%, respectively, of the 35 patients who were found to have at least 1 abnormal coagulation marker.

Conclusion: Our study failed to identify a subset of patients that could be defined as low risk or for whom coagulation marker testing could be foregone. This study suggests that coagulation tests should be routinely performed on all patients presenting to the ED with complaints of envenomation by copperheads, moccasins, or rattlesnakes. Further clarification of when coagulation markers are indicated may require a prospective study that standardizes snake identification and the timing of coagulation marker testing. [West J Emerg Med. 2012;13(1):68–74.]

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