It wasn’t too long ago that tourniquets were a big no-no in trauma medicine. They were the “last resort” and sayings like “life over limb” became synonymous with amputation. Decades of combat have proven that the tourniquet can be left on, in some cases, 48 hours or more without any damage to the limb. And of course, no amputation required. In today’s trauma medicine world, tourniquets are used quite frequently with massive hemorrhaging, which can be life-threatening. A good tourniquet properly applied, will squeeze off blood flow and prevent loss of life.
Not only have tourniquets gone from last resort to sometimes first option, its application has evolved as well. Before, tourniquets were applied just above the bleeder in order to save as much of the extremity as possible. This supported the notion that where the tourniquet was placed, was also the location or point of amputation. Now, there’s a saying “go high or die,” meaning you want to apply the tourniquet as high up the limb as possible.
For the purposes of this article, we are using a Rapid Stop Tourniquet, designed and developed by Aero Healthcare. Leveraging MIT brains, along with subject medical experts, they have developed a ratcheting tourniquet with only three simple steps.
- Place Rapid Stop as high up the bleeding limb as possible
- Pull the D-Ring until snug
- Lift ratchet lever until bleeding stops
There are literally dozens if not hundreds of different kinds of tourniquets on the market. All of which follow very basic principles developed by the original improvised tourniquet. Before there were manufactured tourniquets, there was a technique using a dressing or bandanna tied snugly around the extremity along with a winless (like a stick) allowing a person to twist and crank the bandanna even tighter in order to stop blood flow. Everyone should know how to a tourniquet works in case you don’t have one. It’s not a bad idea to have a tourniquet at home, in your vehicle, or even in your man bag or purse. Let’s face it, all bleeding eventually stops. The smart ones have a tourniquet, the rest bleed out.
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Clint Emerson is a retired Navy SEAL, the best-selling author of "100 Deadly Skills," and the founder of Escape the Wolf, which focuses on crisis management for global companies.