Tourniquet practice proven to improve survival in civilian trauma victims
07/03/2018 / By Carol Anderson / Comments
Tourniquet practice proven to improve survival in civilian trauma victims

The military has done a lot to protect the country and its people – a lot of its methods and techniques have been adapted and used in civilian medicine. In particular, the use of tourniquets to immediately arrest bleeding in the arms and legs has been shown to greatly increase a trauma victim’s odds of survival on the battlefield. A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, however, suggests that it could also be beneficial in improving survival rates of civilian trauma victims.

Dr. Pedro Teixeria, the study’s lead author and a trauma surgeon at the University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School, explained: “This is the first time that we were actually able to prove the survival benefit of using the tourniquet in the civilian population.”

For the study, 1,026 patients were evaluated by the Texas Tourniquet Study Group. Each one had a vascular injury – either on the arms or the legs – and were all admitted to urban Level 1 trauma centers (the highest level for trauma centers) in Texas from 2011 to 2016. Researchers found that in 17.6 percent of the cases, a tourniquet was applied before admission, while its use varied widely among the trauma centers. In total, 9.6 percent of patients had amputations, with 35.7 receiving a tourniquet. Researchers found that this greatly improved their survival rate, as those who were given a tourniquet had a mortality rate of 2.9 percent, compared with those who were not applied.

Shaking off a bad rep

In the past, the application of tourniquets on trauma victims was questioned due to a bad reputation it has earned. In some cases where the tourniquet was left in place too long, it cut off the circulation to the extremity for prolonged periods which is not a good thing. (Read: A prepper’s guide to applying and storing a tourniquet.)


However, Teixeira explained, “What we learned from more recent conflicts in the Middle East is that when tourniquets are applied early and removed in a timely fashion and the definitive repair is performed, also in a timely fashion, they actually have a significant role in preventing death from severe blood loss from an extremity injury.”

He added the tourniquet method is best used in accidents caused by automobiles and motorcycles, and for pedestrians hit by vehicles, stab wounds, and gunshot wounds. The author expounded that in such incidents, a tourniquet can help stop the bleeding until the victim reaches a medical facility and get taken care of.

Ideally, for the method to be highly efficient, the person who will apply the tourniquet must be the fastest one who can deliver as tourniquets work best when applied immediately after the injury was sustained.

The U.S. government has launched a campaign called “Stop the Bleed” which promotes the training of normal civilians – in particular, bystanders – so they can assist in bleeding emergencies.

The low down on proper tourniquet application

Having the knowledge to properly apply a tourniquet is essential, as it can significantly increase a person’s chances of survival – including your own –in the event of a traumatic injury. Here are some things that you have to remember when faced with such an emergency.

  • Wear gloves to minimize the risk of infecting the wound. If these are not available, sanitize your hands before holding it.
  • Expose the open wound by cutting and removing any obstructing clothing on it.
  • Apply firm, direct pressure to the wound with a gauze or clean towel, washcloth or rag.
  • Look for anything which can be used as a tourniquet. These could be anywhere from belts, shoelaces, long sleeve shirts, to even backpack straps.
  • Get a torsion device to tighten the tourniquet. It could be anything long and stick-like.
  • Assess for possible shock.

It’s best to always be aware and have the knowledge on how to save oneself in case of an emergency. Head on to today.

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