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Emergency Tourniquet


July 12, 2021

Are You Prepared?

Accidents with life-threatening injuries happen all the time. The stories are endless - we all have one. That’s why knowing basic first aid skills can be so essential to survival, especially when you are into outdoor recreation or sports. Are you prepared for a life-threatening injury or accident that causes blood loss? It's critical to know basic tourniquet application guidelines and tourniquet use in case you find yourself in a situation where that knowledge can save a life. Tourniquets have been proven effective devices to stop bleeding in major limb trauma and are a vital piece of any emergency kit.

How to Use an Emergency Tourniquet - Understanding Tourniquet Purposes

Hemorrhage is the second leading cause of death for patients injured in the prehospital environment.

  • 57 percent of hemorrhage-related deaths involve injuries that are amenable to tourniquet application.
  • A person can bleed to death in 2-4 minutes from an extremity wound.
  • A SAM XT tourniquet can be properly applied in seconds.

Let’s Talk about Blood

It seems natural, almost instinctual, to want to stop bleeding. From a tiny piece of tissue on a facial razor cut to a tourniquet on an extremity to stop an arterial bleed, when we see bleeding, we understand it must be stopped.

We want NO blood loss—none. Not a single drop.

The average adult weighing 150-180 pounds should have about 1.2-1.5 gallons of blood in their body. This is about 4,500-5,700 milliliters, or 4.5-5.7 liters.

The main function of the blood is the transport of substances from place to place in the body. Functions of the blood include:

  • The transport of oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s tissues, while picking up carbon dioxide from those tissues and carrying it to the lungs to be removed from the body. In the absence of adequate blood flow, the oxygen starved cells of the body begin to die very quickly. Brain damage begins to occur after five to ten minutes without blood flow/oxygen.
  • It carries metabolic wastes to the kidneys for removal.
  • It picks up nutrients from the digestive tract and delivers them to the body’s tissues.
  • It carries hormones to their target organs.
  • White blood cells destroy microorganisms and cancer cells.
  • It initiates clotting and other factors for minimizing blood loss.
  • It stabilizes fluid distribution in the body.
  • It helps in the regulation of body temperature.

All of these functions are critical for survival making it easy to understand why an excessive loss of blood can quickly become fatal.

The body has a built-in mechanism for minimizing loss of blood.

The first line of protection against blood loss is called vascular spasm. This involves the rapid constriction of broken blood vessels.

Next, a platelet plug forms at the site of the injury. Platelets attach to the constricted blood vessel and then contract, further drawing the walls of the vessel together.

Finally, coagulation (clotting) involves a sticky protein called fibrin that adheres to the walls of the blood vessel. As more blood cells and platelets arrive, they stick to the fibrin resulting in a mass of fibrin, blood cells, and platelets. This will seal the break in the blood vessel.

When it comes to arterial bleeding, this system alone is insufficient, and emergency medical attention is required.

What Is Arterial Bleeding and Shock?

Arterial bleeding can be identified by its bright red color, its tendency to spurt as the heart pumps blood to the wound, and the fact that it is extremely difficult to control.

Hemorrhagic shock begins when approximately 20 percent of the blood is lost. Signs include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Blue lips and fingernails
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shallow breathing
  • Chest pain

With blood loss of 30-40 percent, your blood pressure will drop even further, and your heart rate will further increase. Your breathing will be more rapid and shallow.

Blood loss reaching around 50 percent can result in death. As already mentioned, this can happen within 2-4 minutes, and in some cases even less.

Proper Emergency Tourniquet Use to Control Bleeding

Injuries resulting in life-threatening blood loss can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time.

Examples of situations where emergency tourniquets could be used include:

  • Work-related/industrial accidents
  • Injuries related to military duty and law enforcement
  • Sports-related injuries
  • Auto accidents
  • Farming accidents
  • Accidents in the home
  • Firearm-related accidents

Children can be especially vulnerable due to a still developing coordination and natural curiosity, so households with kids should have basic understanding of proper emergency tourniquet use.

Are you prepared to save the life of yourself, a family member, a friend, or even a stranger who needs emergency medical assistance? By applying emergency tourniquets around the limb that suffered an injury, you can help minimize life threatening blood loss and potentially save a life.

Every person should have access to a well-supplied first aid kit that includes a SAM XT tourniquet, as well as some level of emergency first aid training.

When Should a Tourniquet Be Used?

The tourniquet has certainly had its share of controversy throughout history. Before the more recent studies confirming their benefits, many were skeptical, and opinions differed regarding their use. There was uncertainty regarding when to use a tourniquet, exactly how to use a tourniquet, and other specifics regarding protocol.

Tourniquet use was studied closely during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005. This led to the Joint Combat Casualty Research Team confirming not only the utility of tourniquets, but the survival benefit of their use. This data was quickly translated into the development and distribution of commercially available tourniquets in 2005 and 2006.

The modern-day commercial tourniquet is lightweight, inexpensive, portable, easy to apply, and optimized for safety. Effective tourniquet use can stop bleeding in major, potentially life threatening injuries, major limb trauma and/or bleeding in major limb scenarios. By applying direct pressure to the wound around limbs, tourniquets are effective at stopping or minimizing bleeding in an emergency situation.

Types of Emergency Tourniquets

As people watch TV and movies, we get some idea of what a tourniquet is and how a tourniquet can be used. Tourniquets we see on TV are often torn T-shirts tied around a wound. While this works, there are three things that make a good tourniquet:

  1. Some type of material to be used as a band around the arm, leg or other injured body part.
  2. A windlass, or a rigid object, that will be used to twist the material to tighten it.
  3. A securing mechanism to keep the tightened material from unwinding.

The best type of emergency tourniquet is a commercial tourniquet that already contains these three elements, like the SAM XT.

Be Prepared With an Emergency Tourniquet

Everyone should learn basic first aid, including knowledge of hemorrhage control, and own at least one well-equipped first aid pack that includes a SAM XT tourniquet as well as basic tourniquet use. This is especially true for adventurers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts where the likelihood of an injury to limbs is higher. Be sure to take a tourniquet with you when traveling or camping. These supplies and equipment are very cost effective, easy to use, and could save a life.

SAM Medical stands at the cutting edge of hemorrhage control products and technology. Learn more about our quality products for hemorrhage control, fracture management and respiratory management. Proper tourniquet use is vital for anyone where ind detailed instructions on how to use emergency tourniquets.

Emergency Tourniquet

Accidents with life-threatening injuries happen all the time. The stories are endless - we all have one. That’s why knowing basic first aid skills can be so essential to survival, especially when you are into outdoor recreation or sports.



The hurt business is not for everybody, but it is for every body.