What Is A Tourniquet, And Which Is The Right One For Me?

What is a tourniquet?

What is a tourniquet, and which is the right one for me?

A tourniquet is a device for stemming the outgoing flow of blood through an artery, typically by compressing a limb with a cord or tight bandage. Although the term ‘tourniquet’ is also utilized for IV/blood draw-style elastic restrictive bands designed to raise and pronounce veins (blood flowing back to the heart) to the surface of the skin for easier access, for the purpose of this article we will focus on emergency tourniquets as used for life-threatening hemorrhage.

With the semantics out of the way, emergency tourniquets (TQTs) are either improvisational, created with whatever items are on-hand at the time the TQT is needed, or commercial, specific TQT products developed by safety companies with the expressed purpose of operating as a tourniquet. Commercial tourniquets are typically designed for laymen or first responder use, with minimal to no training, whereas improvisational tourniquets are not reliably applied without extensive training and may not be better for rendering appropriate aid than a wound-packing technique would be.


How do tourniquets work?

When a tourniquet is applied around a limb segment, it is gradually tightened until the occlusion pressure is reached. Occlusion, or the closure of a blood vessel, can be determined by the absence of a palpable arterial pulse in the affected limb. The pressure required can vary with the patient’s blood pressure, muscle tension, and tourniquet width. The goal of a tourniquet is to achieve and maintain occlusion at the lowest possible pressure, as high pressures kept over an extended time may lead to nerve damage.


When is tourniquet application not appropriate?

If the patient’s injury is on a part of the body that cannot accommodate the tourniquet i.e. head, chest, or abdomen. Tourniquets are also not effective for junctional wounds, including the shoulders, hips and groins. Junctional wounds should be treated with standard wound packing techniques, abdominal wounds with large trauma dressings, and consider chest seals for chest wounds that may involve the lungs. Improvisational tourniquets should not be used unless the responder has the appropriate training to do so.


Which tourniquet is right for me?

There are many commercial tourniquets on the market and deciding which ones, and how many, are appropriate for your needs can be a daunting task. Fortunately, we’ve done most of the legwork for you and chosen what we believe to be the top-of-the-market tourniquets to include in our bleeding control kits:

True Rescue Tourniquet Comparison CAT SWAT-T SAM-XT

  • C-A-T: Combat Application Tourniquet
    • The tried-and-true standard in commercial tourniquets, the C-A-T is renowned for its wide distribution, industry familiarity, and proven effectiveness in usage by the U.S. military. This is a windlass style TQT that may require some minimal training to achieve appropriate familiarity.
    • SAM-XT: Sam Extremity Tourniquet
      • A relative newcomer to the tourniquet business, the SAMXT sports an exceedingly clever auto-locking mechanism to eliminate slack after the tourniquet has been applied. Eliminating slack is key to maintaining occlusion pressures after application, and thus an imperative component to TQT success. This is a windlass style TQT that may require some minimal training to achieve appropriate familiarity.
    • SWAT-T: Stretch, Wrap, And Tuck Tourniquet
      • The SWAT-T stands out among its competition with its simple design, ease of application, and low cost. Do not let “simple”, “ease”, and “low cost” let you think this is an inferior TQT, however. The SWAT-T’s width allows it to achieve occlusion at lower pressures than other styles of tourniquets, and its intuitive design means there is minimal to no training necessary to apply properly. In a scenario where ever second matters, these advantages cannot be overstated. It is also compatible with rendering K9 and pediatric aid.



        If you ever need any help deciding which tourniquet is right for you, then please do not hesitate to reach out to our team. We will help you prepare the product offering specific to you.

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