Civilian Prehospital Tourniquet Use Is Associated with Improved Survival in Patients with Peripheral Vascular Injury

J Am Coll Surg. 2018 May;226(5):769-776.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2018.01.047. Epub 2018 Mar 29.


Background: Tourniquet use has been proven to reduce mortality on the battlefield. Although empirically transitioned to the civilian environment, data substantiating survival benefit attributable to civilian tourniquet use is lacking. We hypothesized that civilian prehospital tourniquet use is associated with reduced mortality in patients with peripheral vascular injuries.

Study design: We conducted a multicenter retrospective review of all patients sustaining peripheral vascular injuries admitted to 11 Level I trauma centers (January 2011 through December 2016). The study population was divided into 2 groups based on prehospital tourniquet use. Baseline characteristics were compared and factors associated with mortality identified. Logistic regression, adjusting for demographic, physiologic and injury-related parameters, was used to evaluate the association between prehospital tourniquet use and mortality. Delayed amputation was the secondary end point.

Results: During 6 years, 1,026 patients with peripheral vascular injuries were admitted. Prehospital tourniquets were used in 181 (17.6%) patients. Tourniquet time averaged 77.3 ± 63.3 minutes (interquartile range 39.0 to 92.3 minutes). Traumatic amputations occurred in 98 patients (35.7% had a tourniquet). Mortality was 5.2% in the non-tourniquet group compared with 3.9% in the tourniquet group (odds ratio 1.36; 95% CI 0.60 to 1.65; p = 0.452). After multivariable analysis, the use of tourniquets was found to be independently associated with survival (adjusted odds ratio 5.86; 95% CI 1.41 to 24.47; adjusted p = 0.015). Delayed amputation rates were not significantly different between the 2 groups (1.1% vs 1.1%; adjusted odds ratio 1.82; 95% CI 0.36 to 9.99; adjusted p = 0.473).

Conclusions: Although still underused, civilian prehospital tourniquet application was independently associated with a 6-fold mortality reduction in patients with peripheral vascular injuries. More aggressive prehospital application of extremity tourniquets in civilian trauma patients with extremity hemorrhage and traumatic amputation is warranted.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amputation, Traumatic / mortality
  • Amputation, Traumatic / therapy
  • Arm Injuries / complications
  • Arm Injuries / therapy*
  • Emergency Treatment*
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Hemorrhage / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Leg Injuries / mortality
  • Leg Injuries / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Texas
  • Tourniquets*
  • Trauma Centers
  • Vascular System Injuries / mortality
  • Vascular System Injuries / therapy*