I’ve never thought more about tourniquets then I have in this job. Bleeding control being such an important topic of discussion means devoting a good amount of time to all the various ways people have developed to save lives.
It takes some time to run through all the various options out there, and this week we’re looking at the Gen 4 Recon Medical Tourniquet.
But first, before we get into all the little details, we have to address something important.
We can’t be prepared all the time. Even if you’re the kind of person who has every pocket full of life saving materials, you still need to shower at some point and when that day comes you may very well find yourself having to save a life without any gear at all.
Tourniquets are normally your best bet for controlling severe bleeding from an arm or a leg, but that leaves a large portion of the human body where a TQ won’t work.
Working as a Corpsman and EMT, I wasn’t given the choice of what medical gear I used. People with much more experience, training and education decided ahead of time what was acceptable and what wasn’t.
As a result, I only used gear that was issued and available to me and I never thought about if there might be a better option because it wouldn’t matter if there was. It would go against SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and that was always strictly forbidden.
Now that I’m free to explore and look into other life saving equipment, I’m given the opportunity to search out the answers for myself and question my reasons for doing what I do.
I have a lot of time on tourniquets, both in training and in real life. I’ve had the chance to use a lot of different systems for controlling bleeding and here are my top picks for The Top 5 Best Tourniquets.
If you aren’t new to the emergency trauma scene, some of these TQs are no brainers, but number 5 is my favorite, and might surprise you.
It’s impossible to be prepared at all times. We’re likely to be caught off guard and without important gear when an emergency happens. This is why training skills is so important.
Skills are weightless and with us all the time if an edge is honed every now and then. Skills sharpen or dull depending on how often they are used. Gear is great, but you also need to know what to do if you don’t have any, or, you use up everything you have.
This will be a multiple article discussion about what to do in the event you don’t have any gear with you. All you have is your mind, a bad situation, and an injured person in danger.
This is first because blood loss is the injury that will kill your casualty the quickest, but the simplest to prevent. If you’ve been following the Mountain Man Medical YouTube channel or reading any of the articles on this web site, then you already know a tourniquet (TQ) is the first choice for treating life-threatening wounds to arms and legs.
TQs are easy to use and fast to apply with very little training, and are clearly the optimal choice. But what if you don’t have one… or there are more casualties and/or wounds then you have tourniquets for?
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.
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.
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.
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.