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Poisonous animals
Cnidarians (Jellyfish, Corals and Anemones)
Venomous fish
Hymenopterans (Bees, Wasps and Ants)
Sea snakes
Terrestrial snakes
Miscellaneous animals

Cardiac venom/poison effects

Definition: Venom/poison effects that arise due to the direct action of venom/poison on the cardiac conduction system and/or cardiac muscle.


Signs and symptoms:

  • Bradycardia, tachycardia, arrhythmias,
  • arterial hypotension, arterial hypertension,
  • cardiac insufficiency, heart failure,
  • ECG changes,
  • cardiac muscle enzymes ↑.


Little is known about the direct action of animal venoms/poisons on the human heart (cardiac muscle, cardiac conduction system).

In contrast, numerous indirect effects of envenoming/poisoning involve the myocardium and the myocardial conduction system:

  • Hypoxia as a consequence of neurotoxic envenoming/poisoning that leads to paralysis of the respiratory musculature and thus to respiratory insufficiency or failure.
  • Bleeding, e.g. subendocardial haemorrhage or cardiac tamponade, as a consequence of haemostatic venoms/poisons. 
  • Myocardial effects following autopharmacological venom/poison activity via the release of endogenous histamine, bradykinins etc. (see "Autopharmacological venom/poison effects") and subsequent neurological effects due to the release of acetylcholine and catecholamines.
  • Hyperkalaemia as a consequence of rhabdomyolysis or acute renal failure.

A primary cardiac effect has been explicitly shown for a few species of venomous/poisonous animals. However, the clinical observations that were made are extremely non-specific, for example arterial hypotension, bradycardia or cardiac arrhythmias. The same is true for the recorded ECG findings, for example T inversion.

Primary cardiac effects are speculated to occur in envenoming/poisoning caused by the following animals: