Arterial tourniquets have been used for centuries to control severe bleeding. However, their use has been controversial due to myths and misconceptions. Here are the facts about arterial tourniquets:
Myth: Tourniquets cause limb loss.
Fact: When properly applied, tourniquets rarely cause permanent damage if left on for under 2 hours. Most limb loss results from delays in tourniquet use.
Reference: A study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that among patients who had tourniquets applied for less than 2 hours, none experienced limb loss due to the tourniquet. Limb loss was associated with delays in tourniquet application.
Myth: Tourniquets are a last resort.
Fact: Tourniquets should be applied as early as possible to maximize survival and minimize blood loss. Early use is now recommended in trauma guidelines.
Reference: The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma recommends "expeditious application of a tourniquet as first-line treatment for life-threatening external hemorrhage."
Myth: Tourniquets are difficult to apply.
Fact: New combat-style tourniquets are easy to use and effective at stopping arterial bleeding with 1 hand. They have become standard equipment for first responders.
Reference: A study in the Journal of Special Operations Medicine found that new combat application tourniquets (CATs) were easy to apply by untrained individuals, halting arterial bleeding in under 30 seconds.
Arterial tourniquets have been shown to save lives when applied correctly to extremities with severe arterial bleeding. Proper training and guidelines have helped dispel myths that previously limited their use. Today, tourniquets are considered an essential hemorrhage control tool.