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Why Improvised Tourniquets Don’t Work (But Why You Should Still Learn How)

Never improvise unless you have to…

A good medic takes pride in being able to make do with less. Emergency medicine almost never happens in a place when you have every resource at your disposal.

Unless you’re shot in a hospital, odds are good you’ll be severely limited in the type of gear you need to save a life.

Bleeding control is of course the most time sensitive issue for any trauma. Bleeding must be stopped at the earliest opportunity or the casualty may not recover from serious wounds.

Fortunately, bad extremity bleeds are relatively simple to control with the right tools. Tourniquets (TQ) enjoy a good track record for saving lives because they are quick and easy to apply and anyone can learn how to do it effectively in a short time.

But if you don’t have the right tools for the job, survival rates start to drop significantly. Since tourniquets appear to be very simple devices, sometimes it’s assumed you can just quickly make one on the spot and save the day.

But since this is Real Life, things don’t always work like it seems they should.

Your first choice should NOT be to make an improvised Tourniquet.

Here’s why:

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It’s Bodacious! The NEW Wind River Trauma and First-Aid Kit

We’ve been listening to requests to come out with a bigger, more robust kit capable of handling everyday medical annoyances like headaches and minor lacerations.

Trauma gear is vitally important of course, but fortunately not used on a day-to-day basis. More often, minor problems can take the wind out of your sails and make even small tasks a huge chore. Having a few basic items on hand to treat things like allergies, nausea, and small burns can quickly make you a hero with your friends and family.

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A Loose Tourniquet Will Kill You Faster

My brother-in-law Josh is a great role player. Very enthusiastic.

Knowing how to use the equipment you have available is a key detail for saving lives. If you don’t understand how your gear works and what it’s doing when you deploy it, the effectiveness can be drastically reduced.

This is especially true for tourniquets. It’s not enough to simply buy lifesaving equipment, then never learn how to use it right. I have seen many occasions where a person had a quality TQ like the CAT but didn’t use it correctly.

There is a myth about tourniquets that it should be loosened every so often to allow some blood to flow back into the limb. This, supposedly, is so the limb is getting oxygenated blood to the limb and it will therefore not need to be amputated.

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Handling Emergencies Like a Pro: Part 2

Firefighter - Wikipedia
Emergency Professionals like Fire Fighters are widely respected for being able to stay calm when things get hairy. It's not impossible for you to do the same.

In Part 1 of Handling Emergencies Like a Pro, we talked about how to make a quick plan on the way to the casualty. Professionals do this all the time and it’s a great way to get past a lot of the indecision. But, to come up with a workable plan, you need to be trained.

Any high-level professional will tell you they are constantly training. Developing and maintaining skills takes a big stress load off your shoulders by allowing you to focus on the bigger, more dynamic picture. Since you have applied a Tourniquet (TQ)so many times in training, you aren’t thinking about each and every step when you do. Instead you’re thinking ahead about the next problem.

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It’s Bodacious*! The New Wind River Medical Kit by Mountain Man Medical

*Bodacious

Bo-da-cious:

adjective

Excellent, admirable, or attractive.

Audacious in a way considered admirable.

“The Wind River is a bodacious medical kit!”

The Yellowstone and Sweetwater trauma kits, our flagship products, hit the market to wide acclaim and remain very popular with our customers.

But now comes the time to release the next installment in our line of quality medical gear.

We take great pride as a company to provide the best possible gear at prices affordable for everyone, and requests have been flooding in for us to sell a more comprehensive kit able handle everything from major trauma to minor injuries.

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Handling Emergencies Like a Pro: Part 1

The hardest part about emergency trauma care is managing the chaos that tends to invade every situation. Basic first aid is surprisingly simple, but the nature of it being an emergency rachets up the stress and quickly makes those simple things surprisingly difficult.

So, since the hard part of emergencies is really just about managing high levels of stress, how can we be more effective first responders?

Professionals are no different then you, they just have better methods of managing the stress. Let’s look at some of the ways to prevent being overwhelmed when everything and everyone around you seems to be falling apart.

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Why the SWAT-T is Good for Civilians, but Not the Military

I know I already touched on this topic a few weeks ago, but I wanted to go a little more in depth on why I believe the SWAT-T is a great back up.

When I became a part of Mountain Man Medical earlier this year, I knew I was about to learn a lot. Not only was I going to brush up on old trauma skills, but I was going to learn about how to publish articles and videos. Being a knuckledragger with a low-level IQ means it’s tenacity that wins the day over speed. Eventually, I’ll learn a new thing if I apply myself.

What I was unprepared for was how many rumors and myths I’ve encountered surrounding basic trauma medicine. The medical world is constantly changing and evolving. New techniques are always being studied, developed, improved on, thrown away, or otherwise changed so something once thought of as the gospel truth, is now widely frowned upon in modern medicine.

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How Long Can You Leave A Tourniquet Before Amputation?

Tourniquets are a frequent topic of discussion on the Mountain Man Medical YouTube channel and I’ve been seeing a lot of rumors. Most of these rumors come from the old ways of doing things.

All medicine is constantly changing, year to year and sometimes month to month as scientists and doctors search for the best way to keep a person alive, and trauma is no exception.

If you haven’t had any medical training for a few years you might not be up to date on the latest techniques for managing trauma. One of the most common myths I see pop up is this:

“Tourniquets are a last resort. If you apply a TQ, the victims injured limb will be amputated.”

Not only is this wrong, but it’s very dangerous.

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Rangers Lead the Way with Innovative War Medicine

75th Ranger Regiment Medic
Photo: U.S. Army

History was made by Staff Sergeant Charles Bowen and Sergeant Ty Able one long night in Afghanistan when they utilized a brand-new procedure developed by the Army to keep our nations warriors in the fight.

The Ranger O Low Titer (or ROLO as the troops know it), uses a live donor to supply combat medics with a fresh supply of blood on the battlefield.

Bowen and Able were conducting operations with their unit, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, in the Wardak province of Afghanistan in the summer of 2019.

Work for the medics began after the Rangers were attempting to dislodge a barricaded shooter. Three soldiers were injured by an explosion and the two units of blood every Ranger medic carries was quickly used up treating the casualties.

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The SWAT-T is the Best Backup Tourniquet

Having a commercial, purpose-made tourniquet ready to go in an emergency is essential for keeping someone alive. Trying to build your own on the spot takes time you don’t have and won’t be nearly as effective as something like the CAT.

And no, your belt is not an acceptable substitute of a quality tourniquet. I run into people all the time that say they would just use their belt to control a life-threatening bleed because they haven’t stopped to think about how it might actually be done.

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