How snake bite complications can appear 50 years later

Snakes are almost everywhere, and if you are unfortunate to scare one badly enough you could be the victim of a snake bite. Complications from…

Malayan Pit Vipers can be very venomous snakes. One woman in Thailand developed more symptoms 50 years after being bit. (Shutterstock)

Snakes are almost everywhere, and if you are unfortunate to scare one badly enough you could be the victim of a snake bite. Complications from a snake bite–especially a venomous snake–can be deadly, or may even present 50 years after the bite!

This was the case for a now 66-year-old woman in Thailand who was bitten by a venomous Malayan pit viper when she was 14. Fifty years later, doctors examined the woman for a large mass that had developed in her lower calf, though the painless growth had become noticeable ten years prior.

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After diagnostic imaging  it was determined the mass was a large cavity surrounded by a calcified membrane. Though it eventually grew so large that it broke through the woman’s skin, such calcified masses have been seen following muscle trauma in other injuries.

“At presentation, a plain X-ray showed a large soft tissue mass at the anterior compartment of her left leg,” wrote researchers in the case study. “A sheet-like mass with an enlarged central cavity combined with peripheral calcification and cortical erosion of her tibia were observed. A biopsy was performed and the result was negative for neoplastic cells. During a 5-year follow-up, the mass progressively enlarged and then became infected and finally broke through the skin. “

According to a report from Live Science, calcified masses form when muscle tissue dies following a disruption in blood supply. This is usually the result of a crushing injury and is primarily seen in the lower leg. The calcification is sometimes–as in the woman with the snake bite–accompanied by compartment syndrome.

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What is compartment syndrome?

“Compartment syndrome is a painful condition that occurs when pressure within the muscles builds to dangerous levels. This pressure can decrease blood flow, which prevents nourishment and oxygen from reaching nerve and muscle cells,” indicates the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

“Compartment syndrome develops when swelling or bleeding occurs within a compartment (of muscle tissue). Because the fascia does not stretch, this can cause increased pressure on the capillaries, nerves, and muscles in the compartment. Blood flow to muscle and nerve cells is disrupted. Without a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients, nerve and muscle cells can be damaged.”

It takes time for this calcification and compartment syndrome to occur, which is why the woman did not realize there was an issue until almost 40 years post snake bite. After the mass was removed, the woman experienced complete wound healing within a month.