In concept, any non-elastic material wrapped circumferentially around a limb and tightened should be able to generate enough pressure to occlude arterial flow and act as a tourniquet. Although there are numerous tourniquets on the market that aren’t counterfeit (a copy claiming to be an actual named device, like some of the airsoft ‘toy’ tourniquets many have seen) most commercially available tourniquets remain unproven.
Without human volunteer testing, verifying occlusion of arterial flow, how do we know the device actually does what it claims? Multiple factors go into successful tourniquet application: usability by the applier, perceived pain of application to the casualty that might get the applier to place the device looser than necessary, the ability of the device to generate adequate pressure on a given limb, the ability of the device to hold pressure, etc.
It is now commonplace to use a computerized model to test tourniquets. Although testing tourniquets on a computerized model provides repeatability in an experiment (if the device is designed with that in mind) it doesn’t tell us anything about the tourniquet’s actual success rate or efficacy on a human.
Many manufacturers simply copy existing successful tourniquet designs and change a detail or two to avoid patent infringement. However, unless the new tourniquet is also human tested, how do we know the changes aren’t detrimental to the device’s performance?
One such tourniquet is the Recon Medial tourniquet. In form it appears very similar to a CAT tourniquet but has a thumbhole on the circumferential band and a metal windlass/rod. This device is becoming fairly common. Recently we have seen them placed in commercial active shooter medical bags and in a local high school. Unfortunately, there is no evidence they work. Admittedly, that also means there is no evidence that they don’t. The strongest evidence the manufacturer can provide upon repeated inquiries is that four members of the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) have played with the device (but not performed any scientific testing or doppler applications) and liked it. Although NTOA is a great organization for dissemination of information among tactical law enforcement officers and historically very supportive of Tactical Emergency Medical Support for tactical teams, four SWAT officers looking at the device and thinking it seems ok, is not evidence of efficacy.
Be careful where your medical advice comes from. We prefer science over speculation.