Objective.—To determine whether volunteers (with or without prior medical training) can correctly apply pressure immobilization (PI) in a simulated snakebite scenario after receiving standard instructions describing the technique.
Methods.—Twenty emergency medicine physicians (residents and attendings) and 20 lay volunteers without prior formal medical training were given standard printed instructions describing the application of PI for field management of snakebite. They were then supplied with appropriate materials and asked to apply the technique five separate times (twice to another individual [one upper and one lower extremity] and three times to themselves [nondominant upper extremity, dominant upper extremity, and one lower extremity]). Successful application was defined a priori by four criteria previously published in the literature: wrap begins at the bite site, entire extremity is wrapped, splint or sling is applied, and pressures under the dressing are between 40 and 70 mm Hg in upper-extremity application and between 55 and 70 mm Hg in lower-extremity use. Pressures were determined using a specially designed skin interface pressure-measuring device placed at the simulated bite site.
Results.—The technique was correctly applied as judged by the preset criteria in only 13 out of 100 applications by emergency medicine physicians and in only 5 out of 100 applications by lay people. There was no significant difference in success rates between physicians and lay volunteers. Likewise, there was no significant difference in success based on which extremity was being wrapped. More detailed analysis revealed that the major contributor to failure was inability to achieve recommended target pressures.
Conclusions.—Volunteers in a simulated snakebite scenario have difficulty applying PI correctly, as defined in the literature. The major source of failure is an inability to achieve recommended pressure levels under the dressing. New methods of instructing people in the proper use of PI or new technologies to guide or automate application are needed if this technique is to be used consistently in an effective manner for field management of bites by venomous snakes not known to cause significant local wound necrosis.