Thought this technique was obsolete? Wrong. Dr. Peter Taillac, clinical professor at the University of Utah, offers a step-by-step guide on how—and when—to use a tourniquet to treat gushing backcountry wounds.
When 15 minutes of direct pressure and elevation, and packing wounds with sterile gauze don’t stop the bleeding—or in situations where the limb might be lost anyway—a tourniquet can be lifesaving. Follow these steps:
1) Use a commercial tourniquet, such as the Combat Application Tourniquet ($30; narescue.com). Don’t have one? Fold a clean bandana or cloth—not rope, wire, or a belt, which could cut skin—until it is 4 inches wide.
2) Wrap it twice around the limb about 2 inches above the injury (not on a joint).
3) Tie an overhand knot, place a finger-thick stick on top, then tie a square knot.
4) Twist the stick until the bleeding stops.
6) Write “TK” and the exact time on the victim’s forehead.
7) Supply pain meds: “Tourniquets are excruciatingly painful,” Taillac says.
As a first resort.
In situations with multiple grave injuries, applying a tourniquet first can free you up to attend to other urgent trauma. Remove it once the victim is stabilized (after no more than 2 hours) to avoid limb damage. Here’s how:
1) Apply direct pressure on the wound, then slowly loosen the tourniquet.
2) If bleeding resumes, re-tighten.
3) Snug the pressure dressing and try again. If it bleeds, leave the tourniquet on and evac.