When is it OK to use a tourniquet?

When attempts at direct pressure have failed to control limb haemorrhage and the bleeding is life- threatening.

What should be used?

Generally a purpose made tourniquet (at least as wide as a belt) should be used. In life threatening situations, improvising may be required. Tourniquets may cause or increase tissue injury which can make subsequent limb surgery difficult, so their use should be limited to life-threatening limb haemorrhage. Furthermore, the high-pressure required to control haemorrhage with a narrow tourniquet is associated with increased tissue damage and may lead to an amputation at a higher level.

In a first aid setting an improvised tourniquet should only be used where direct pressure limb haemorrhage control is failing and the victim’s life is at risk: by using a tourniquet the rescuer is making a conscious decision to risk the limb to save the victim’s life.

It would be incorrect to say that a tourniquet should never be used, however tourniquets should only be considered in extremely serious situations such as those described above and considering that tourniquet use presents considerable risk to the long-term viability and function of the limb

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Category: Guidelines

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