What Damage can be Done with Tourniquets

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Optimising Tourniquet Use for Catastrophic Bleeding

Understanding the critical aspects of tourniquet application can save lives in emergencies involving catastrophic bleeding. This guide addresses common concerns and clarifies the proper use of tourniquets.

The Importance of Timely Application

Delaying or incorrectly applying a tourniquet can result in significant blood loss, exacerbating the patient's condition. Immediate and correct application is essential to control bleeding effectively.

Correct Tightness is Crucial

A tourniquet must be applied tightly enough to stop arterial blood flow, not just venous return, to prevent further blood loss and potential harm to the patient.

Myths About Tourniquet Use

  • Limb Loss: Contrary to popular belief, limb loss is rare and often results from the injury itself rather than tourniquet use. Tourniquets are life-saving in severe bleeding scenarios.
  • Reperfusion Injury: While reperfusion injury is a concern, it's a risk mainly after extended tourniquet application (over 60 minutes) and is managed by medical professionals upon hospital arrival.

Risk Assessment

The potential for limb damage or reperfusion injury should be balanced against the imminent risk of death from uncontrolled bleeding. The benefits of tourniquet use generally outweigh the risks.

Guidelines for Safe Tourniquet Use

Tourniquets can be safely left in place for up to two hours, providing sufficient time for emergency evacuation and hospital treatment. The application site and duration should be monitored, but immediate action to stop bleeding takes precedence.


Correctly applying a tourniquet during catastrophic bleeding emergencies significantly increases a patient's survival chances. With proper training and adherence to guidelines, the risks associated with tourniquet use are minimal compared to the potential for saving lives.

Learning Outcomes:
  • IPOSi Unit three LO3.1, 3.2, 3.3 & 3.4