Our first plan to manage massive extremity hemorrhage is to use a proven commercially available tourniquet. Barring that, create an improvised tourniquet using a cravat, or a strip of fabric, with a windlass for leverage.
If no other tourniqueting materials are available, a successful tourniquet can sometimes be made using the casualty’s own clothing:
- Cut up the pants 2” to either side of each side of the inseam and outseams, which will result in fabric strips about 4” wide, the length of the pant-leg.
- Wrap the fabric around the limb, crossing on the sides,
- tie a square knot, and
- tighten with a windlass. A metal pen or another sturdy object can be used to get the mechanical leverage required to make the pant leg into a tourniquet.
- Ideally, secure the windlass with another strip of fabric.
- You can cut a small hole in the casualty’s pants above the knot to hold the windlass in place without an additional tie, but it could come loose during casualty movement, so a second cravat, duct tape, or strip of fabric is preferred.
Long-sleeved shirts can also make successful tourniquets using this technique.
This technique works best with a “certain” inseam to waist circumference ratio- if the thighs are huge and the inseam is short, there may not be sufficient fabric to wind around the limb tightly enough to fully occlude blood flow.
This technique works for children as well as adults and is proven via doppler ultrasound. Check out www.crisis-medicine.com for videos demonstrating both techniques.
For more information on tourniquets generally, see: