Analysis of referral letters to assess the management of poisonous snake bite in rural Papua New Guinea.
Trevett AJ., Lalloo DG., Nwokolo N., Kevau IH., Warrell DA.
A prospective series of patients envenomed after snake bite was seen at Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH), Papua New Guinea, between January 1991 and December 1992. Referral letters were received with 60 of the patients who had been initially seen at a health centre. These letters were analysed in conjunction with our own clinical observations. The importance of non-clotting blood and local lymphadenopathy as early signs of systemic poisoning did not appear to be universally recognized by staff in health centres. In some cases, no attempt was made to transfer the patient to hospital until signs of neurotoxicity were established with potentially dangerous delay. Analysis of both hospital and health centre records suggests that the majority of deaths which occurred in Central Province, Papua New Guinea, during the period of the study were due to delay in transfer to hospital. We suggest that all patients with unequivocal signs of envenoming in Central Province, Papua New Guinea, should be transferred to PMGH as soon as possible. Antivenom should also be given as soon as possible, but this does not remove the need for immediate transfer.