Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Stun guns and Snake Bites

Medical Mythbusting Situation #2

Snake bites - there are a lot of nasty snakes here in Africa - just a few are: black cobras, both green and black mambas, boomslang, gaboon viper, and African rock python.  The availability of anti-venom is all but non-existent.  And these aren't "nice" snakes - so I really really really wanted this to be true...let's see what I found out...

1.      Question:  Will a stun-gun or other means of electrical current be effective as an anti-venom treatment?

P – Patient Information:  35 year old snake-bite victim
I – Intervention: stun-gun
C – Comparison:  anti-venom vaccine
O – Outcome:  effective anti-venom properties

Because anti-venom is difficult if not impossible to come-by in many third world countries, the concept of using some sort of electrical current by means of a car battery or stun-gun is a widely-accepted method in the prevention of death due to a snake bite.  Here is what my research found:

“Articles have been written in many outdoor magazines and other literature stating that stun guns can be utilized to treat venomous bites and stings.  This method is still considered to be an option by some medical practitioners and enthusiasts of the outdoors.  A Medline search was done using the search of venomous bites, venomous stings, snake bites, spider bites, electrical, stun gun, high voltage electricity, low amperage electricity, direct current, and shock therapy.  Some of the articles selected included laboratory-based isolated venom studies, animal studies, and case report where humans were involved in which a stun gun or other source of high voltage, low amperage direct current electric shocks were used to treat actual or simulated venomous bites or stings.  The conclusion that was found in these studies indicated that the use of stun guns or other sources of high voltage, low amperage direct current electric shock to treat venomous bites and stings is NOT supported by the literature.”  

 I really wanted this one to be true – but as it is not supported by the literature, I couldn’t, in good conscious, use it as a go-to for medical treatment.  So there you have it - if you get bit - don't shock yourself, go seek aid immediately.  Or in our case, pray a lot, and look to be evacuated to another country for assistance.

Welch, B., Gales BJ; (2001).  Use of Stun Guns for Venomous Bites and Stings:  A Review.; Wilderness Environ Med. 12(2): 111-7

Additional references:
“… continued use of HVDC shock therapy for treatment of snakebites is another instance in which favorable results of anecdotal reports have not been reproduced in controlled studies.” (Gold, 1993).

Gold, BS. (1993). Electric shock: a potentially hazardous approach to treating venomous snakebites. Md Med J, 42, pp. 244–245

Johnson, EK, Kardong, KV, Mackessy, SP. (1987). Electric shocks are ineffective in treatment of lethal effects of rattlesnake envenomation in mice. Toxicon, 25, pp. 1347–1349

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