The military emergency tourniquet program's lessons learned with devices and designs

Mil Med. 2011 Oct;176(10):1144-52. doi: 10.7205/milmed-d-11-00114.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to report the device lessons learned from an emergency tourniquet program and, in particular, to emphasize analysis of discarded devices recovered after clinical use.

Methods: Discarded tourniquet devices were analyzed after use in emergency care of war casualties to determine wear and tear patterns, effectiveness rates, and associations among device designs.

Results: The 159 devices recovered comprised seven designs. Emergency & Military Tourniquet (92%) and Combat Application Tourniquet (79%) effectiveness rates were significantly different from each other and better than other tourniquets (p < 0.002) as the most effective ambulance and field tourniquets, respectively. Designs had specific pitfalls (e.g., sand-clogged ratchets) and strengths (the pneumatic design was least painful). Every device had wear, abrasions, or deformity about the band edges or bladder. User understanding of how devices work best helped attain better results. Some desirable traits (e.g., one-handed application, use for entrapped limbs) were rarely needed. Tourniquets fit casualty limbs well.

Conclusions: Correct user actions (e.g., following the instructions to remove slack before twisting) led to device effectiveness, but misuse did not. Users often assumed that optimal use required more force, but this was associated with misuse. Training should include tourniquet pearls and pitfalls.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Treatment / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Design
  • Extremities / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Military Medicine*
  • Tourniquets*