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June 7, 1976

Early Debridement in Pit Viper Bites

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

JAMA. 1976;235(23):2513-2516. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260490031016

BITES by common pit vipers create complex problems in the human victim that require complex solutions. No panacea is available, regardless of statements by some authorities.

In the continental United States, common pit vipers include the rattlesnake, copperhead moccasin, and water moccasin; in south Texas, they are represented by the western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), copperhead moccasin (Agkistrodon contortix contortix), and water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma. Any physician who treats a pit viper bite must know the mechanical and physiological effects of the venom on the human victim, and he must apply the latest methods of medicine and surgery to prevent death, loss of limbs and digits, and loss of function (especially of the hand and fingers).1

Since 1966,I have seen and treated 200 patients with pit viper bites and have performed surgery on 140. These 140 patients are classified according to type of viper, sex, age, and area