Variability in local pressures under digital tourniquets

J Hand Surg Eur Vol. 2014 Jul;39(6):637-41. doi: 10.1177/1753193413492059. Epub 2013 Jun 3.


The UK National Patient Safety Agency issued a rapid response report in 2009 following reports of complications related to digital tourniquet use and inadvertent retention. In their guidance, they recommend the use of CE marked digital tourniquets and advise against the use of surgical gloves. There are a number of different commercially available non-pneumatic digital tourniquets, but little clear data relating to their comparable physical properties, clinical efficacy or safety. The aim of this study was to investigate the variability of pressures exerted by non-pneumatic digital tourniquets. A Tekscan FlexiForce(®) force sensor was used to measure applied force and to calculate the surface pressures under: the Toe-niquet™; T-Ring™ and surgical glove 'roll down' tourniquets in finger models. The lowest mean pressures were produced by the larger glove sizes (size 8) (25 mmHg), while the highest pressures were produced by the Toe-niquet (1560 mmHg). There was a significant overall difference in pressures exerted under tourniquets when comparing tourniquet type (p<0.001) and finger size (p<0.001) with these techniques. It is difficult to anticipate and regulate pressures generated by non-pneumatic tourniquets. Safe limits for application time and surface pressures are difficult to define. Further work is required to model the pressure effects of commercially available digital tourniquets and to identify which are most effective but safe.

Keywords: National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA); Tourniquet; digital tourniquet; finger tourniquet; pressure; safety.

MeSH terms

  • Fingers / surgery*
  • Gloves, Surgical
  • Humans
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Pressure
  • Toes / surgery*
  • Tourniquets*