IMMEDIATE FIRST AID
for bites by
Vipera xanthina palestinae
In the event of an actual or probable bite from a Palestine Viper, execute
the following first aid measures without delay.
- Make sure that the responsible snake or snakes have been appropriately
and safely contained, and are out of danger of inflicting any additional
- Immediately call for transportation.
- Keep the victim calm and reassured. Allow him or her to lie flat and
avoid as much movement as possible. If possible, allow the bitten limb to rest
at a level lower than the victim's heart.
- Identify the bite site, looking for fang marks, and
apply the Sawyer Pump extractor with the largest cup possible over the bite
site. If there are two or more fang marks noted on the limb, apply the pump
extractor over at least one fang mark. If more than one pump extractor is
available, they may be applied to the additional fang marks.
- Immediately wrap a large constricting bandage snugly about the bitten
limb at a level just above the bite site, i.e., between the bite site and the
heart. The constricting band should be as tight as one might bind a sprained
ankle, but not so tight as to constrict blood flow. Immobilize the affected
extremity with a splint.
- DO NOT remove the constricting band or splint until the victim has
reached the hospital and is receiving Antivenom.
- Have the Behring Vorderer/Mittlerer Orient Polyvalent Antivenom ready
for the Lifeflight crew to take with the victim to the hospital. Give them the
- the available antivenom (at least 15 vials)
- the accompanying instruction (Protocol) packet
- the victim's medical packet
DO NOT cut or incise the bite site
DO NOT apply ice to the bite site
Summary for Human Bite
Vipera xanthina palestinae
The bite of the Palestine Viper is rarely fatal. Victims will usually
complain of pain at the bite site and local swelling may be evident. Local
tissue destruction can ensue. Please read the attached Medical Management
Protocol and respond appropriately.
- First Aid:
- Apply a constricting band and splint, if not already present, as
described in the Immediate First Aid section. Rest this extremity below the
level of the patient's heart (if practical).
- Transport to U.C.S.D. Medical Center Trauma Service.
- Medical Management:
- Call your local Poison Control Center, or the San Diego Regional
Poison Control Center (800 876-4766). They should locate a consultant to help
you treat this patient.
- Observe for Signs and Symptoms of Envenomation.
- If significant systemic signs or symptoms are present, perform the
- Administer Lactated Ringers Solution at 250 mls per hour.
- Draw samples and collect initial laboratory data.
- Dilute the contents of 2 vials of Behring Vorderer/Mittlerer Orient
Polyvalent Antivenom in Lactated Ringers Solution to a total volume of 100ml.
Administer the antivenom I.V. piggyback over 30 minutes at a rate of
200ml/hour (i.e. one vial per 15 minutes). The combined rate of diluted
antivenom and Lactated Ringers Solution is now approximately 450ml/hour. The
rate of Lactated Ringers Solution may be adjusted accordingly to avoid fluid
overload, however a brisk urine output should be a treatment goal.
- When one complete vial has been infused (i.e. 15
minutes), remove the constricting band and splint.
If symptoms progress rapidly, reapply the bandage, wait 10 minutes, and
then again release the bandage slowly while antivenom administration is
- Allergic or untoward reactions to the antivenom
should be treated with Benadryl, Epinephrine, and/or Corticosteroids. A
patient with known sensitivity to horse serum may be pretreated with 1 gm of
Solumedrol, administered I.V. push.
- Monitor Signs, Symptoms, and Laboratory data, and administer
additional antivenom in 2 vial increments at a rate of one vial every 15
minutes as necessary to control the progression of symptoms.
- The required amount of antivenom will vary with
the severity of envenomation. One should anticipate using (including
the initial dose):
2-4 vials for a minor bite with envenomation
5-15 vials may be necessary for moderate or severe bites.
for bites by
Vipera xanthina palestinae
This person has received a bite and probable envenomation from a Vipera
xanthina palestinae (Palestine Viper). This is a very venomous and dangerous
snake native to Iran, Turkey, Israel, and Jordan. The Palestinae Viper
accounts for the majority of snake bites in these regions and envenomation
may result in a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations including local
tissue destruction, internal hemorrhage, coagulopathy, and cardiovascular
collapse. Death may ensue rapidly but more commonly occurs within 12-24
Please read and execute the following procedures without delay.
- A constricting band and splint have been applied as immediate first
aid adjuncts to retard the absorption of the venom. DO NOT remove until the
patient has arrived at the hospital and is receiving the antivenom.
- Make sure that at least 15 vials of Behring Vorderer/Mittlerer Orient
Polyvalent Antivenom are present with the patient. This antivenom is specific
and is only available directly from the San Diego Zoo Reptile Department.
Refrigerate the antivenom upon arrival to the hospital.
- If the patient has been envenomated, the initial treatment is two vials
of intravenous antivenom. Envenomation is diagnosed by the presence of
characteristic signs and symptoms. Necessary information follows and is
organized into the following sections:
- Signs and Symptoms of Envenomation
- Medical Management
- General Considerations
- Special Considerations
Signs and Symptoms of Envenomation:
- Local Affects:
- Pain and swelling
- Hemorrhagic edema
- Blistering, bleb formation
- Tissue necrosis
- Circulatory shock
- Coagulation defects
- Neutrophil leucocytosis
- Spontaneous bleeding
- Mucosal bleeding
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Internal hemorrhage: myocardial, intestinal, renal
- Pulmonary hemorrhagic edema
- Pulmonary congestion
- Renal Failure
- Abdominal pain
- Regional lymphadenopathy
- Edema of tongue, face, lips (Quincke's edema)
- Faintness, dizziness
- Fang Marks: The presence of fang marks does not always
imply envenomation as the palestinae viper may bite without injecting
venom into the victim. However, the absence of fang marks does not necessarily
preclude the possibility of a bite, nor does it give any indication of the
severity of the bite. Fang marks may be presentas one or more well defined
punctures, as a series of small lacerations or scratches, or there may not be
any noticeable or obvious markings where the bite occurred. Finally, multiple
bites inflicted by a single snake are possible and should be noted if
- Admit patient to the Trauma Service and call consultants listed on the
last page. Terence M. Davidson, M.D. is the local consultant for snake bites,
and should be notified immediately.
- Begin a peripheral intravenous infusion (16 gauge catheter) of Lactated
Ringers Solution at a rate of 250 cc/hour.
- Draw blood from the contralateral arm, and collect urine for the
following laboratory tests. Mark STAT.
- Type and Cross Match TWO units of Whole blood.
- CBC with differential and quantitative platelet count.
- Coagulation Parameters:
- Prothrombin Time (PT)
- Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT)
- Fibrinogen Levels
- Fibrin Degradation Products
- Serum Electrolytes, BUN/Creatinine, Calcium, Phosphorus.
- Lactate Dehydrogenase (with Isoenzyme analysis). Isoenzyme analysis
may indicate multiple targets of the venom components which may dictate further
- Urinalysis (Macroscopic and Microscopic Analysis).
Must include analysis for:
- Free Protein
- Electrocardiogram (Sinus Tachycardia would be expected).
- Continuous Urine Output Monitoring (In dwelling Foley
Catheter if unconscious). Watch for possible oliguria or anuria.
- Additional tests as needed or indicated by the patient's hospital
- It may be necessary or practical to repeat some of the above serum and
urine tests over the hospital course to monitor the effects of antivenom
therapy or to detect late changes in laboratory values.
- OBSERVE PATIENT CLOSELY for signs and symptoms of envenomation which
usually manifest between 15 minutes and two hours after the bite
- If NONE of the signs or symptoms have been noted after TWO hours,
there is the possibility that the patient received a dry bite (no venom
- VERY SLOWLY begin to remove the constricting band and splint watching
carefully for any changes in the patient's status. If any changes occur,
assume the patient has been envenomated and prepare to give antivenom
immediately (as directed below).
- If signs and symptoms still fail to manifest, continue CLOSE
observation of the patient for an additional 12 to 24 hours.
- IF SIGNIFICANT SYSTEMIC SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS become apparent, begin
antivenom therapy as follows:
- Dilute the contents of 2 vials of Behring Vorderer/
Mittlerer Orient Polyvalent Antivenom in Lactated Ringers Solution to a
total volume of 100ml. Administer the antivenom I.V. piggyback over 30 minutes
at a rate of 200ml/hour (i.e. one vial per 15 minutes). The combined rate of
diluted antivenom and Lactated Ringers Solution may be adjusted accordingly to
avoid fluid overload, however a brisk urine output should be a treatment
- Should any signs of ALLERGY/ANAPHYLAXIS (e.g., coughing, dyspnea,
urticaria, itching, increased oral secretions, etc.) develop, immediately
discontinue the administration of antivenom, and treat symptoms with
Corticosteroids, Epinephrine, Benadryl, Atarax and/or Antihistamines. As soon
as the patient is stabilized, continue the antivenom infusion at a slower rate.
- After 15 minutes of antivenom administration, the
splint and the constricting band may be removed. If the patient's
condition worsens, reapply the bandage, wait 10 minutes and release the bandage
again slowly while antivenom administration is continuing.
- Antivenom Therapy is the mainstay of treatment for Palestine Viper
snake envenomation. Many of the symptoms are ameliorated or entirely
eliminated by the antivenom alone. Other symptoms will require additional
therapeutic modalities in order to be corrected.
- Cardiovascular status: The administration of antivenom alone will help
correct hypotension, bradycardia, and signs of circulatory shock provided the
patient is not hypovolemic. Intravenous administration of Lactated Ringers
Solution is warranted in all cases. Cardiovascular stability and a brisk
diuresis are desired.
- Hematological signs and symptoms: Palestine Viper venom is toxic to
vascular endothelial tissue and has hemorrhagic activity as well. Bite victims
frequently develop thrombocytopenia, decreased fibrinogen levels, and
spontaneous bleeding. Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy and anemia may
likewise occur. Case reports reveal no trend in the PT or PTT; these
parameters may be normal or prolonged. Death from severe envenomation is
usually the result of internal hemorrhage and circulatory collapse. Whole
blood, packed RBC's, platelets, cryoprecipitate, and fresh frozen plasma should
be given when indicated.
- Renal: Hemoglobinuria and myoglobinuria may affect renal function,
and if severe, acute renal failure may necessitate peritoneal dialysis.
- Neurological symptoms are uncommon with Palestine Viper bites.
However, if breathing becomes impaired, respiratory assistance may be
necessary. As such intubation and ventilation may be appropriate adjuncts in
certain clinical settings. Secretions may become copious, necessitating
- It is important to keep venom neutralization current and continuous.
The best method to accomplish this is to monitor the patient's status. If the
present condition does not improve, or should it worsen for any reason,
additional antivenom should be administered. Give all additional antivenom in
two vial increments. Dilute the antivenom in Lactated Ringers as before and
administer the antivenom I.V. piggyback over approximately 30 minutes. Minor
bites with envenomation require at least 2-4 vials but severe envenomations may
require up to 15 vials of antivenom.
- It is advisable to perform periodic serum and urine analyses during
therapy (as outlined above).
- It is always best to keep the patient in an Intensive Care setting
until free of major symptoms for 24 hours. The patient should be observed in
the hospital for at least 24 hours after all symptoms abate.
- It is important that the patient remain resting and warm. Avoid
- Symptom variability: There is a marked variability of symptoms
in response to Palestine Viper bite. It is important to note the continual
progression of signs and symptoms throughout the course of therapy and to give
additional antivenom as necessary.
- Circulatory Shock: Hypotension and bradycardia are frequent
complications of Palestine Viper bites. Plasma expanders and/or vasopressor
agents may be given when appropriate, but will be most effective if adequate
antivenom has been appropriately administered.
- Fluid Management: The patient should be well hydrated, and a
brisk urine output should be maintained. Blood products should not be given
until circulating venom has been neutralized with antivenom.
- Compartment Syndrome: It should be noted that fascial
compartment syndromes in Palestine Viper bites are uncommon. Limbs may swell
significantly, but rarely involve specific fascially bound compartments. If
however the logistics of the bite raise a high index of suspicion for
compartment syndrome, monitoring with a Wick Catheter or appropriate pressure
device may be necessary. Fasciotomy is rarely, if ever, recommended.
- Tetanus Prophylaxis should be current.
- Antibiotics are not recommended prophylactically.
- Antivenom is the best treatment for all signs and symptoms of
Palestine Viper bites and should be utilized prior to other treatment
- Multiple Bites:
- It is possible for a Palestine Viper to deliver more than one bite in
a single attack. If there is evidence that such an attack occurred (i.e.,
history or multiple bite sites), give 4 vials of antivenom as the initial dose
but be prepared to give a total of 15 vials to adequately treat the bite.
Titrate antivenom administration to signs and symptoms as discussed
- Testing for Equine Protein Sensitivity:
- It is NOT ADVISABLE to utilize subcutaneous or intradermal testing
for sensitivity to equine products in that such testing may be unreliable,
and may unnecessarily delay antivenom therapy which must be used if any signs
of Palestine Viper envenomation are present.
- If there is reason to believe that the patient may be sensitive to
equine protein products:
- Premedicate the patient with 1 gm Solumedrol,
administered I.V. push. Assuming the patient's condition is stable, wait
15-30 minutes before administering the antivenom.
- Administer the diluted antivenom at a rate as
tolerated by the patient beginning at a rate of
100ml/hour (as opposed to the normal 200ml/hour rate). If the patient
tolerates this, increase the rate up to 200ml/hour.
- Monitor Pulse and Blood Pressure carefully. Be
prepared to treat for Anaphylaxis.
- Clinical Experience with the Palestine Viper
- The Palestine Viper is considered the most dangerous snake in
Israel and is noted for its ability to strike its victim quickly and without
warning. The case fatality rate for envenomation is approximately 5% and
fatalities have been reported despite the administration of antivenom
- Death secondary to envenomation by the Palestine Viper is generally due
to circulatory shock from volume loss. Volume loss occurs secondary to damage
of the vascular endothelium which results in massive bleeding into the soft
tissues as well as internal hemorrhage. Finally thrombocytopenia and
fibrinolysis contribute to these bleeding tendencies. Fatalities are
infrequent if antivenom is administered in a timely manner.
The following references are recommended for further reading. This
material includes case histories, guidelines and recent findings in treatment
of Vipera xanthina palestinae bites. These should be read only after treatment
has begun, and the patient is stable.
- Efrati, P., and Reif, L., Clinical and pathological observations on
sixty-five cases of viper bite in Israel, 1955, American Journal of Tropical
Medicine and Hygiene. 2:1085.
- Efrati, P., Clinical manifestations and treatment of viper bite in
Israel, Toxicon, 1969, 7:29-31
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