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?
Trying to decide what the best tourniquet is for you? The Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) is often viewed as the best device for controlling life-threatening bleeds and is trusted by medical professions all around the world. The SOF-T Wide is also just as trusted, but not quite so widely used. This doesn’t mean it’s inferior.
The CAT has the benefit of being the first to the market and was picked up by the US and British militaries for combat applications and so it enjoys great data supporting its effectiveness.
The SOF-T Wide came onto the scene a short time later, but since it was approved by the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) after the CAT, it isn’t as widely recognized, but still deserves your consideration in my opinion.
I have used both TQ’s in real world applications and I have some opinions that might help you decide which is the right TQ for you.
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.