Last revised by Bálint Botz on 12 Dec 2020

Tourniquets are external devices used to temporarily stop active arterial bleeding on the extremities, which are not controllable by dressing or packing. The tourniquet is placed proximally to the site of injury, at the most distal aspect of the undamaged, healthy tissue. Note that devices widely utilized during various vascular access procedures to increase success rate of e.g. iv. cannulation are also termed tourniquets. This article mainly discusses devices used to prevent exsangunation in the acute setting. 

Practical points

Tourniquets are most commonly encountered in the emergency trauma patient, and their presence shoud be commented upon 1. A well applied tourniquet should prevent significant blood flow in the compressed vessel distal to its position. 

The use of tourniquets is not without risks, and are thus seldom utilized in civilian emergencies in contrast to military settings. Prolonged application (beyond two hours) can result in permanent nerve and muscle damage. Reperfusion injury is also possible with longer application 2

History and etymology

The term "tourniquet" originates from the French word "tourner", which means "to turn" (as the lever of the device has to be rotated to apply pressure) 2

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