Using tourniquets can save lives. However, it is important to be knowledgeable about the technique. In the 2010 AHA CPR and First Aid Guidelines: the use of tourniquets has been endorsed in both the professional setting and in the public sector. Tourniquets should always be a last resort to effectively stop bleeding and you should always try to control with direct pressure first. The tourniquet should be utilized for extremity bleeding only and placed approximately 2 inches above the injury. It is important to note that the bleeding will become worse before it gets better, continue tightening the tourniquet until bleeding is stopped.
Steps to Apply a Tourniquet:
- Position and tie the tourniquet 2 inches above the injury
- Apply a windlass
- Twist the windlass until bleeding stops
- Note the time the tourniquet was applied
Specifically designed tourniquets do work better than improvised ones. Make sure to note the time in which the tourniquet is applied and pass this information on to EMS providers. There are potential dangers in prolonged tourniquet application, but the benefits of controlling life threatening bleeding outweigh the risks.
Tourniquets were not endorsed for a wide range of studies as they can damage soft tissue, and applied incorrectly they can make bleeding worse. It wasn’t until the most recent military experience that they were brought back into use. Military study in the Middle East conflict proved them to be a necessity, and has pushed medicine to explore great advances in limb re-perfusion. Now they are being utilized even in surgical settings- enabling doctors to limit bleeding in the controlled setting as well.