Eugene Nielsen at Spotter Up has a pretty comprehensive article on The EDC Tourniquet.
According to published research, reported in the October 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)), the average response time in the US from the time of a 911 call to arrival of EMS on scene was seven minutes. This increased to more than 14 minutes in rural settings. A person can bleed out from a severed femoral artery in less than five minutes. You do the math.
In an active shooter or terrorist incident, emergency personnel won’t reach victims until the threat has been neutralized. During the Paris attacks on 13 November 2015, it was over 160 minutes from the time the terrorists fired the first shots in the Bataclan theater until the responding emergency personnel were able to reach those inside the venue.
The reality is that you’re going to be your own first responder. Bystanders will always be first on the scene, whether it be terrorism or other criminal act or an accident. In the Boston Marathon bombing on 15 April 2013, bystanders employed improvised tourniquets to save lives. Time consuming and inefficient, but it was all that they had. Don’t plan to improvise if the need arises. Always have a real tourniquet.
Data from the Boston Marathon Bombing found that six of the rubber and improvised type tourniquets had to be subsequently replaced with C-A-T® tourniquets. Additionally, the most common EMS tourniquet on scene consisted of rubber tubing and a Kelly clamp.
Roughly 80% of combat deaths and 50% of civilian trauma deaths are attributable to hemorrhage. It’s the most preventable cause of death in compressible injuries. The proper use of tourniquets saves lives.
Time is of the essence. Hypovolemic shock occurs where there is an acute fluid or blood loss in the body. It’s a life-threatening emergency. Hypovolemic shock is most often secondary to rapid blood loss (hemorrhagic shock). It causes inability of the heart to pump the essential blood needed to the body, resulting in multiple organ failure due to inadequate cellular oxygenation. There are four stages of hypovolemic shock.
Stopping the blood loss before patient goes into Stage II shock, ie., blood volume loss up to 15% (~750 mL), keeps survivability at around 94%. If blood loss continues and the patient is in Stage II (30% or ~1500 ml) or greater, the survivability goes down to 14%, without any blood being administered. These figures are based on a US Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) study conducted in 2006 and 2007.
While I recommend that everyone carry a trauma kit, a tourniquet (and gloves) needs to become part of your everyday carry (EDC) at the at the very minimum. Tourniquets have emerged as the standard of care in the tactical environment due to their ease of use, rapid application, and complete stoppage of blood loss. Current protocol considers the tourniquet an initial lifesaving intervention to control massive hemorrhage from an extremity.
The old dogma of “save a life, lose a limb” has been proven to be false. A tourniquet can safely remain in place for up to two hours. Thousands of combat veterans are walking around today with all their limbs because their lives were saved by tourniquet use.
The use of tourniquets on the battlefield isn’t new. As far back as Alexander the Great’s military campaigns in the fourth century BC, tourniquets were used to staunch the bleeding of wounded soldiers. The term “tourniquet” dates from the 17th century and originated from the French “tourner” meaning “to turn”. .
Tourniquets lost popularity after the US Civil War, having been blamed for complications that resulted in amputation. This misunderstanding has unfortunately persisted, especially as it pertains to tourniquet use in civilian settings.
Although there have been several studies in the past that have looked at tourniquet use in civilian settings, the survival benefit for patients has been unclear. However, new research shows that for civilian patients with peripheral vascular injury, prehospital tourniquet use is associated with dramatically improved odds of survival.
The study, titled “Civilian Prehospital Tourniquet Use Is Associated with Improved Survival in Patients with Peripheral Vascular Injury,” was published 29 March 2018 and reported in the May 2018 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS). This study was a multi-institutional retrospective review of all patients sustaining peripheral vascular injuries admitted to all 11 urban Level I trauma centers in the state of Texas from January 2011 to December 2016.
The study found that “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.” Simply put, tourniquets save lives.
Popular commercial tourniquets include the Combat Application Tourniquet® (C-A-T®), SOF® Tourniquet, RevMedx® TX® Series Ratcheting Medical Tourniquet -Tactical™ (RMT-T™), SAM Extremity Tourniquet (SAM-XT™), Tactical Mechanical Tourniquet™ (TMT™), SWAT-T® and Rapid Application Tourniquet System®® (R.A.T.S.®) / Rapid Tourniquet. Each has its pros and cons. All are capable of occluding blood flow when properly applied.
As of this writing, the C-A-T, RMT-T, SAM-XT, SOF Tourniquet (SOFTT-W), TMT and TX Series (TX2 and TX3) are the only US military Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) recommended non-pneumatic limb tourniquets. It’s important to keep in mind that the CoTCCC, a division of the DoD Joint Trauma System, is looking at tourniquets for use on adults in combat by trained military personnel. not for use by civilians with limited training or for use on children.
The C-A-T, RMT-T, SAM-XT, SOF Tourniquet, TMT and TX Series are windless/ratcheting tourniquets. The SWAT-T (Stretch, Wrap and Tuck Tourniquet®) and R.A.T.S. are elastic wrap tourniquets.
A plus to elastic wrap tourniquets is that they pack down into a significantly smaller size, making them easier to carry. They’re also considerably less expensive than windless/ratcheting tourniquets. On the downside, elastic wrap tourniquets require a wider range of motion to apply. The latter can make self-application more difficult.
The SWAT-T and R.A.T.S. can be be employed for higher axillary and groin applications than windless tourniquets. They may also be employed for pediatric and K-9 applications, where standard windlass tourniquets cannot. A study of commercial tourniquets conducted in Israel, and reported in a paper submitted to the 2018 NAEMSP Scientific Assembly, found that the SWAT-T and R.A.T.S. were the best tourniquets for use on children.
It should be noted that North American Rescue states that the C-A-T has been shown to be effective on limbs as small as five inches in circumference. It should also be noted that the TX Series ratcheting tourniquet is available in a pediatric model designed specifically for children.
The SWAT-T is a versatile medical multi-tool that may be employed not only as a tourniquet, but also as pressure dressing, occlusive device, elastic bandage, sling and swathe, used to secure a splint, and more. If the SWAT-T is employed as a pressure bandage or dressing, it’s important to check for a distal pulse after application. Although not a CoTCCC-recommended tourniquet, the SWAT-T has been the subject of several studies which demonstrated it’s efficacy.
PHLster Flatpack Tourniquet Carrier
No tourniquet does you any good if you don’t have it with you when you need it. I have found the PHLster Flatpack® Tourniquet Carrier from PHLster Holsters to be a great, low-profile way to EDC a windlass tourniquet for easy, one-hand deployment. Designed for versatility, it allows you to carry a folded and staged windlass tourniquet on your belt, in a pocket or with MALICE CLIPS® for MOLLE/PALS mounting..
Having the necessary tools is only part of the equation. Equipment is only as good as your training. Basic emergency medical training should cover the entire spectrum of lifesaving skills. And like shooting, they’re perishable skills.
Emergency medical training should be part of the basic skill sets of every firearms owner. In fact, it should be part of the basic skill sets of everyone. The time to learn isn’t when someone is bleeding out.
The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) and STOP THE BLEED® are excellent resources that can direct you to courses in your area. Dark Angel Medical offers a free online introductory course designed to teach the basics of bleeding control.
Dark Angel Medical also offers an outstanding two-day Direct Action Response Training (D.A.R.T.) course at various locations around the country. All participants receive BCON (Bleeding Control) certification from the American College of Surgeons. It also provides 16 hours of CEU’s, per CECBEMS, to NREMT EMT-Basics/Advanced and Paramedics. I have taken the D.A.R.T. course and highly recommend it. Dark Angel Medical is also a great source for trauma kits and components. I have taken the course and highly recommend it. Idid an article on the D.A.R.T. course recently for Spotter Up.
The online learning platform Deployed Medicine is also valuable resource. It’s used by the Defense Health Agency (DHA) “to trial new innovative learning models aimed at improving readiness and performance of deployed military medical personnel.” Learning assets include the standardized Tactical Combat Casualty Care All Service Members (TCCC ASM) Course curriculum developed by the Joint Trauma System, which is part of the DHA. You don’t have to be a member of the military to take advantage of its resources.
Some Final Thoughts
Preparedness requires the proper mindset, training, and tools. It doesn’t just happen. It’s a way of life and takes some effort. And it’s about preparing for possibilities, not just probabilities.
Carry a proven tourniquet. Not all tourniquets are created equal. I recommend carrying at least two tourniquets. This will leverage your capability. I carry a C-A-T as my primary EDC tourniquet and a SWAT-T as my secondary/backup tourniquet
Buy from a reputable source. If you try to save a few bucks you may wind up with poorly made counterfeit. Counterfeit tourniquets are a growing problem. They can cost lives. The life you save may be your own or that of a loved one.
Practice with the tourniquet in situations that are similar you may encounter. Get a spare/training tourniquet for this purpose. Don’t use the actual tourniquet that you will be counting on in an emergency. Practice both strong and support side applications.