Angioedema and Dual Nurse Flight Crew Cricothyrotomy After Envenomation by a Severed Rattlesnake Head

John R. Richards, Howard E. McKinney, Heather M. Shannon, John Rey M. Hassan, Alyrene A. Dorey, Kelly P. Owen, Jonathan B. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Crotalid envenomation may result in airway compromise from angioedema, anaphylaxis, or an anaphylactoid reaction. A 57-year-old man was transported by helicopter to the emergency department (ED) after a bite to his hand from a severed rattlesnake head. He rapidly developed facial and oropharyngeal edema that did not respond to standard treatment. After 2 unsuccessful attempts at intubation, the dual flight nurse team performed a cricothyrotomy. They notified the ED team en route, and antivenom was prepared before arrival. Angioedema was suspected because there was no concomitant urticaria, bronchoconstriction, or persistent hypotension. Edema and ecchymosis of the affected extremity were mild. Severe coagulopathy ensued, which was treated with bolus doses of antivenom and continuous infusion. This case report is significant for several reasons. It is the first detailing a prehospital cricothyrotomy performed by flight crew nurses for life-threatening airway edema caused by snakebite envenomation. In-flight notification enabled the ED staff to prepare and administer antivenom immediately after arrival. Despite the use of antivenom in bolus dosing, crotalid envenomation may be complicated by persistent or recurring coagulopathy, and continuous antivenom infusion may be useful. Finally, it highlights the danger of snakebite envenomation even after the death and decapitation of a snake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAir Medical Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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