BITES study: A qualitative analysis among emergency medicine physicians on snake envenomation management practices

Anna Tupetz, Loren K. Barcenas, Ashley J. Phillips, Joao Ricardo Nickenig Vissoci, Charles J. Gerardo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Introduction Antivenom is currently considered standard treatment across the full spectrum of severity for snake envenomation in the United States. Although safe and effective antivenoms exist, their use in clinical practice is not universal. Objective This study explored physicians’ perceptions of antivenom use and experience with snake envenomation treatment in order to identify factors that influence treatment decisions and willingness to administer. Methods We conducted a qualitative study including in-depth interviews via online video conferencing with physicians practicing in emergency departments across the United States. Participants were selected based on purposive sampling methods. Data analysis followed inductive strategies, conducted by two researchers. The codebook and findings were discussed within the research team. Findings Sixteen in-depth interviews with physicians from nine states across the US were conducted. The participants’ specialties include emergency medicine (EM), pediatric EM, and toxicology. The experience of treating snakebites ranged from only didactic education to having treated over 100 cases. Emergent themes for this manuscript from the interview data included perceptions of antivenom, willingness to administer antivenom and influencing factors to antivenom usage. Overall, cost-related concerns were a major barrier to antivenom administration, especially in cases where the indications and effectiveness did not clearly outweigh the potential financial burden on the patient in non-life- or limb-threatening cases. The potential to decrease recovery time and long-term functional impairments was not commonly reported by participants as an indication for antivenom. In addition, level of exposure and perceived competence, based on prior education and clinical experience, further impacted the decision to treat. Resources such as Poison Center Call lines were well received and commonly used to guide the treatment plan. The need for better clinical guidelines and updated treatment algorithms with clinical and measurable indicators was stated to help the decision-making process, especially among those with low exposure to snake envenomation patients. Conclusions A major barrier to physician use of antivenom is a concern about cost, cost transparency and cost–benefit for the patients. Those concerns, in addition to the varying degrees of awareness of potential long-term benefits, further influence inconsistent clinical treatment practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0262215
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1 January
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


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