How and When to Use a Tourniquet


We’ve all seen the films the place a wounded hero rips a chunk of his t-shirt and ties it round a limb to make use of as a tourniquet.  In actual life, utilizing a tourniquet this manner would virtually definitely lead to failure and dying.  You want a large tourniquet utilized very tightly to cease limb bleeding.

Due to how misunderstood the tourniquet is, many well being companies have began campaigns about correct tourniquet use. This information is our contribution to the mission.

Learn on to study the way to save a life with a tourniquet.

Why You Want Tourniquet Information

tourniquet poster from 1918
Tourniquets have been used for a whole lot of years, particularly by troopers.  For instance, through the US Civil Conflict, troopers had been advised to hold a bandana and stick so they might make a tourniquet.

Even with right this moment’s medical breakthroughs, tourniquets are nonetheless an integral a part of first assist within the battlefield.  Correct tourniquet use is taught as a part of TCCC (Tactical Fight Casualty Care) and is attributed to saving many troopers’ lives.

A lot of the details about the way to apply a tourniquet is geared in the direction of troopers.  When you aren’t a soldier, you may suppose that you simply don’t have to find out about tourniquets.

However there are a lot of on a regular basis conditions the place tourniquets may save lives:

  • Mass casualty occasions
  • Car collisions and accidents
  • Falls
  • Climbing accidents
  • Knife wounds
  • Shootings

For instance, tourniquets saved many lives through the Las Vegas capturing. The trauma workforce caring for the Tree of Life synagogue victims estimates that tourniquets utilized on the scene saved at the least three lives.

Tourniquet use is so essential that public well being organizations are creating consciousness campaigns for most people. Within the US, the Cease the Bleed consciousness marketing campaign educates on bleeding management and FEMA has labored to get tourniquets in additional public locations.  Within the UK, the general public can be being introduced updated with army protocols.

Really helpful Tourniquets

You may suppose {that a} tourniquet is a quite simple gadget, and that an affordable one will do the job. That is NOT the case.

Tourniquets have to use an enormous quantity of stress.  Low-cost tourniquets will typically loosen.  Or, their buckle will break.  When this occurs, the tourniquet gained’t have the ability to exert sufficient drive to cease the circulate of blood.

The CoTCCC (Committee on Tactical Fight Casualty Care) solely recommends two tourniquets:

Fight Software Tourniquet Technology 7 (CAT-7)

Examine On Amazon

Particular Operations Forces Tactical Tourniquet (SOFTT)

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Learn extra about the very best tourniquets right here.

Don’t Tourniquets Trigger Limb Injury?

petit tourniquet
An instance of an historic tourniquet

Tourniquets have been used for a whole lot of years, particularly by troopers in battle. After the US Civil Conflict although, tourniquets misplaced reputation. They had been blamed for problems like amputations and gangrene, and thought to do extra hurt than good.

Nonetheless, these points had been primarily as a result of the tourniquets weren’t utilized appropriately or tightly sufficient.

For instance, it was frequent follow then to use the tourniquet beneath the wound.  Tourniquets should be utilized above the wound to cease blood circulate.  This appears apparent right this moment however wasn’t previously. (4)

Stopping Tourniquet Problems

Even when correctly utilized, tourniquets can nonetheless trigger problems.  These embody:

  • Compartment syndrome,
  • Reperfusion harm when launched
  • Embolism
  • Everlasting nerve injury, muscle harm, vascular harm, pores and skin necrosis
  • Ischaemia
  • Fractures
  • Ache (5)

Nonetheless, these problems are usually not seemingly.

One research of 68 sufferers discovered no problems from tourniquets. One other research discovered a 1.7% incidence of nerve palsy, no amputations, and a excessive survival fee.

Knowledge reveals tourniquets will be utilized for as much as 2 hours with out concern about amputation.

To stop problems from tourniquets, you may:

  • Try direct stress earlier than making use of a tourniquet.
  • Use a wider tourniquet (extra on this within the Selecting a Tourniquet part).
  • Keep away from leaving the tourniquet on for extended durations (extra on this within the Eradicating a Tourniquet part)
  • Don’t let the affected person’s discomfort dictate the way you carry out first assist. (6, 7)

Select Life Over Limb

Though there are some dangers related to making use of a tourniquet, they shouldn’t cease you from utilizing one. Actual-life proof reveals that early use of tourniquets saves lives.

For instance, one research cited by Particular Operations Drugs discovered that Four of seven soldier deaths may have been prevented with earlier tourniquet use. A special research discovered that sufferers had been 9 occasions extra prone to survive if the tourniquet was positioned earlier than the onset of shock than afterwards.

When the US army began giving tourniquets to all deployed troopers in 2005, it resulted in an 85% drop in deaths as a result of limb bleeding. This goes to indicate how efficient tourniquets are at saving lives.

When push involves shove, it’s higher to save lots of a life than a limb. Because the American Faculty of Surgeons Superior Trauma Life Assist (ATLS) course handbook agrees with this place.  It says:

“A correctly utilized tourniquet, whereas endangering the limb, could save a life…The dangers of tourniquet use enhance with time. If a tourniquet should stay in place for a chronic interval to save lots of a life, the doctor should be cognizant of the very fact the selection of life over limb has been made.”

Directions for Making use of a Tourniquet

applying a tourniquet instructions

1. When to Apply

Tourniquets ought to be utilized in conditions the place:

  • The wound is on a limb
  • The bleeding can’t be managed with direct stress
  • When sustaining direct stress shouldn’t be doable (resembling in conditions the place there are a number of casualties)

What for those who aren’t positive whether or not to use a tourniquet or not?

Analysis reveals that tourniquets are sometimes utilized when not obligatory.  Nonetheless, in instances the place tourniquets are obligatory, survival charges are significantly better when the tourniquet was utilized early.

Thus,  researchers conclude that a specific amount of over-treatment could also be wanted to realize a zero miss fee for bleeding to dying. In different phrases, it’s higher to play it protected.  Apply the tourniquet early.

When NOT to Apply a Tourniquet

  • When bleeding will be managed by direct and/or oblique stress
  • Snake bites: Opposite to what you see in motion pictures, tourniquets ought to NOT be used on snake bites. This could lure the venom in a single spot and injury tissue.  Right here’s what it’s best to do as a substitute.

2. Wrap Round Limb

The tourniquet ought to go across the injured limb, roughly 2 or Three inches above the bleeding web site. Making use of shut the wound minimizes threat of harm to tissue. Depart any stress dressings in place.


  • By no means apply a tourniquet over a joint. Go above the joint if obligatory.
  • When you aren’t positive the place the wound is or there are a number of wounds on the identical limb, then apply it proximally – or excessive up across the limb.
  • The decrease arms and decrease legs have two bones. It may be tough to compress them sufficient to cease blood circulate. Making use of a tourniquet above the knee or elbow could also be simpler in these conditions.
The tourniquet ought to go roughly 2-Three inches above the wound. Don’t apply over a joint.

3. Tighten and Safe

Following the directions of your tourniquet, tighten it till the bleeding stops.  Safe the tourniquet in place.  Don’t cowl the tourniquet.  It ought to stay seen for medical responders.

4. Word the Time

All the time write down the time the tourniquet was utilized.  This data is essential for medical responders.

A tourniquet can stay in place for roughly 2 hours with little threat of limb injury, and as much as Four hours with average threat of tissue injury.

5. Examine the Tourniquet

The one strategy to know if a tourniquet is working is to verify for a pulse beneath the tourniquet.  When you can nonetheless really feel a pulse, then the tourniquet shouldn’t be working. A second tourniquet ought to be utilized proximal (above) the primary.

Likewise, for those who can nonetheless see blood flowing even after making use of a tourniquet, it’s best to apply a second tourniquet proximal to it.

external bleeding first aid instructions

DIY and Improvised Tourniquets

Within the motion pictures, you’ll typically see impromptu tourniquets made out of a torn shirt, phone wire, or one thing else related.

Sadly, DIY tourniquets aren’t prone to work.  It’s subsequent to inconceivable to dam all blood circulate with one thing like a torn shirt.  Blood will nonetheless proceed to circulate to the wound.

That doesn’t imply you shouldn’t use DIY tourniquets.  If in case you have no different possibility, a DIY tourniquet is healthier than nothing.

Impromptu Tourniquet Directions:

improvised tourniquet instructions

  1. Select a large, sturdy piece of fabric. A triangle bandage, scarf, or bandana will work. Keep away from skinny objects resembling telephone cables for those who can. Belts additionally won’t work.
  2. Cross the fabric above the wound.
  3. Put a tightening rod in place. A stick or carabiner will work. Keep away from objects like pencils which might simply break.
  4. Make a knot across the rod with the tourniquet materials.
  5. Twist the rod. You will have to twist tightly to cease blood circulate.
  6. Safe the rod in place. This may be executed by tying one other piece of fabric round it. Hair bands can even work.

Once more, a DIY tourniquet is healthier than nothing.  However impromptu tourniquets are very prone to fail – particularly for those who didn’t use a windlass rod for tightening it.

One of the best factor is to follow psychological preparedness so that you’ll be calm and able to improvise an efficient tourniquet if obligatory.

Eradicating the Tourniquet (Conversion)

Tourniquets can stay in place for two hours with little or no threat of problems.  At Four hours, there may be nonetheless minimal threat of problems.

Keep in mind, all the time select life over limb.  Don’t take away the tourniquet.  Anticipate skilled medical assist.

What if completely no assist is on the market? I imply completely no assist.  Like a complete doomsday SHTF scenario.

After a while has handed, it’s doable that sufficient clotting has occurred to cease the circulate of blood.  The tourniquet can then be eliminated instead of stress dressings.

***We solely mentioning these steps as a result of we wish individuals to be ready for all conditions.  It is extremely unlikely that you’ll ever have to take away a tourniquet. 

In on a regular basis conditions, assist will probably be accessible.  When mountain climbing in the midst of “nowhere”, you hopefully have a method of calling for assist so medics can helicopter their strategy to you. Even in warfare there’ll most likely nonetheless be some assist accessible because of subject docs.  Heck, conflict has been happening in Syria for 8+ years now.  Many hospitals are shut down however there are nonetheless heroic docs performing mind surgical procedure from basements…

So, I repeat: Select life over limb.  When you aren’t positive whether or not it’s protected to take away a tourniquet, go away it in place.

Tourniquet Conversion Steps:

  1. Solely take into account eradicating a tourniquet when the affected person has been stabilized, many hours have handed, and no skilled assist is on the market.
  2. Earlier than eradicating the tourniquet, the wound should have been packed and had direct stress dressings utilized.
  3. Examine to see if bleeding is below management. To do that, loosen the tourniquet barely.  See if it begins bleeding.
  4. If bleeding happens, retighten the tourniquet instantly. If no bleeding happens, then proceed to incrementally loosen the tourniquet.  Search for bleeding every time you loosen.
  5. Depart the tourniquet loosely in place above the wound. This can let you reapply the tourniquet shortly if obligatory.

Frequent Tourniquet Errors

  • Not utilizing a tourniquet when obligatory.
  • Ready too lengthy to use a tourniquet.
  • Utilizing a tourniquet when direct stress would work.
  • Periodically loosening the tourniquet.
  • Not making use of the tourniquet tightly sufficient.
  • Not utilizing a second tourniquet if obligatory.

Ought to You Periodically Loosen the Tourniquet?

Tourniquets are extremely painful for sufferers.  Nonetheless, it’s best to by no means loosen the tourniquet to “give the tissue oxygen and blood.”

This can solely trigger the affected person to bleed to dying in brief bursts.  If completely no assist is on the market and lots of hours have handed, then you definitely may take into account eradicating the tourniquet.  See the “Conversion” part above.  However that’s just for full SHTF doomsday eventualities the place there’s no probability of a skilled medical skilled reaching you.  In any other case, go away the tourniquet in place and maintain it tight.

Free Courses

The Cease the Bleed marketing campaign gives FREE bleeding management courses.  These are in-person courses with skilled instructors.  You’ll be able to seek for a free class in your space right here.

Making use of tourniquet (U.S. Air Pressure Images by Workers Sgt. Carlin Leslie)
Improvised tourniquet: (U.S. Air Pressure Picture by Workers Sgt. Jocelyn A. Ford)
Fight motion tourniquet ( United States Division of Protection with the ID 081106-D-1852B-011)


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