Tourniquets in Severe Traumatic Limb Haemorrhage

Tourniquets in Severe Traumatic Limb Haemorrhage

A 30 year old male pedestrian was involved in a road traffic collision with a car travelling at speed. On arrival of the paramedics he was found to be unconscious with evidence of severe blood loss. He also had a partial amputation of his right leg below the knee. The paramedics applied a combat application tourniquet to the thigh, above the injury. He then suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest and CPR was commenced. On arrival in the emergency department his trachea was intubated and he underwent bilateral decompressive thoracostomies. Large bore intra-venous access was secured and two units of packed red cells given by a rapid infusion device. He remained haemodynamically unstable requiring a further six units of red cells and associated blood products to maintain a systolic blood pressure of above 80mmHg. Orthopaedic members of the trauma team were persistently keen to remove the tourniquet in order to prevent distal-neurovascular damage. This request was repeatedly denied and he was transferred rapidly to theatre for definitive control of his ongoing haemorrhage with an exploratory laparotomy. No cause for haemorrhage was found on laparotomy so attention shifted to damage control surgery on his leg in order to try and achieve some haemodynamic stability. Unfortunately to achieve this aim the tourniquet was removed. Bleeding was uncontrollable even with reapplication of the tourniquet and the patient exsanguinated and died.

What are the current recommendations for the use of limb tourniquets in trauma, and what is the evidence base for those recommendations?

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