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Intensive-care management of snakebite victims in rural sub-Saharan Africa: An experience from Uganda

H-J Lang, J Amito, M Duenser, Raymond Towey

Abstract


Background. Antivenom is rarely available for the management of snakebites in rural sub-Saharan Africa(sSA).

Objective. To report clinical management and outcomes of 174 snakebite victims treated with basic intensive-care interventions in a rural sSA hospital.

Methods. This cohort study was designed as a retrospective analysis of a database of patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) of St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor in Gulu, Uganda (January 2006 - November 2017). No exclusion criteria were applied. Results. Of the 174 patients admitted to the ICU for snakebite envenomation, 60 (36.5%) developed respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation (16.7% mortality).

Results. suggest that neurotoxic envenomation was likely the most common cause of respiratory failure among patients requiring mechanical ventilation. Antivenom (at probably inadequate doses) was administered to 22 of the 174 patients (12.6%). The median (and associated interquartile range) length of ICU stay was 3 (2 - 5) days, with an overall mortality rate of 8%. Of the total number of patients, 67 (38.5%) were younger than 18 years.

Conclusion. Results suggest that basic intensive care, including mechanical ventilation, is a feasible management option for snakebite victims presenting with respiratory failure in a rural SA hospital, resulting in a low mortality rate, even without adequate antivenom being available. International strategies which include preventive measures as well as the strengthening of context-adapted treatment of critically ill patients at different levels of referral pathways, in order to reduce deaths and disability associated with snakebites in sSA are needed. Provision of efficient antivenoms should be integrated in clinical care of snakebite victims in peripheral healthcare facilities. Snakebite management protocols and preventive measures need to consider specific requirements of children.


Authors' affiliations

H-J Lang, St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor, Gulu, Uganda

J Amito, St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor, Gulu, Uganda

M Duenser, Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Kepler University Hospital and Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria

Raymond Towey, St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor, Gulu, Uganda

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Cite this article

Southern African Journal of Critical Care 2020;36(1):39-45. DOI:10.7196/SAJCC.2020.v36i1.404

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-07-30
Date published: 2020-07-30

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