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Tourniquets have long been used to stop severe bleeding, especially in emergency and medical situations. But how exactly do they work? Here, we explain how a tourniquet functions and how it can help save lives.

A tourniquet is a device applied to a limb to constrict the flow of blood and cause the blood vessels to become temporarily occluded. Commercial tourniquets consist of a band or strap made of cloth, rubber, or plastic that is fastened around an extremity with some type of tightening device. This device is then tightened until the flow of blood ceases in the affected area.

The most common type of tourniquets use windlass mechanisms. These consists of a rod that is inserted into the tourniquet band and then twisted to increase tension on the band until it becomes tight enough to stop the flow of blood to the affected extremity. The windlass should also be secured so that it does not loosen or slip off during transport of the patient. The time of tourniquet application should be noted with the patient in a conspicuous and obvious location, using 24-hour time.

Tourniquets should be used when necessary to control life-threatening bleeding. Once a tourniquet is applied, it should only be removed by properly trained medical professionals in an appropriate medical setting. Improperly applied tourniquets can also lead to tissue necrosis (death) due to lack of oxygenated blood supply in the affected area. Therefore, it’s important to understand how and when these devices should be used in order to ensure patient safety and successful treatment outcomes.

Learn More

CSRE offers Stop the Bleed courses for anyone who wants to be prepared to intervene if there is life-threatening bleeding and Community Courses, focused on the general population, as well as Workforce education, targeted at industry and the commercial workforce, from the American Heart Association and Health Safety Institute.

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