One of the oldest methods of saving lives is to stanch bleeding by using a tourniquet. Wrapping a belt, towel or sheet above the area where blood is flowing is an emergency last-ditch measure. It prevents major loss of blood, shock and death. It is of great value when help is on the way.
In recent years there have been disputes about using tourniquets.
Are they more trouble than they are worth? What if tourniquets are placed too high above the injury? What if they are too narrow? What if they are not tight enough?
During the Vietnam War, some military surgeons thought tourniquets might lead to amputations. The American Red Cross worried that tourniquets may be used when they were not necessary.
However, during the war in Iraq, tourniquets came back. Studies showed that timely use of tourniquets could raise survival rates by 90 percent. Tourniquets are now routinely issued to soldiers.
Boston EMS includes tourniquets in their equipment and used them during the Boston Marathon explosions. The tourniquets proved to be crucial.
A doctor said, “Without a doubt tourniquets were a difference-maker and saved lives.”
Many other people with much less training pitched in. A man watching the marathon ducked into a sporting-goods store and came out with T-shirts to use as tourniquets.
Tourniquets should be at least 1 1/2 inches wide, and pulled very tight, to properly shut off blood flow. Medical supply companies make tourniquets that do the job best.