Battle tested

July 27th, 2017

The tourniquet’s bad rep is persistent. Many people still believe they should be avoided at all cost because they will result in otherwise unnecessary amputations, but tourniquets belong everywhere, an Army physician told doctors and nurses at Trauma Talk, the Level I Trauma Center’s monthly lecture series.

Stop the Bleed
Stop the Bleed classes taught by doctors and nurses of the Level I Trauma Center at JPS have reached more than 1,000 Tarrant County residents in classes large and small, some at JPS, others at area schools and businesses. The course, which JPS adopted last year, was developed by the American College of Surgeons to prepare bystanders to respond to arterial bleeding, which is likely to be fatal before emergency medical help arrives. For more information visit

On Middle Eastern battlefields the military has established that tourniquets save lives and don’t result in amputations that could have been avoided, said Army Capt. Caitlin Howard, MD, an emergency medicine physician from Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. For a soldier with an artery severed in combat, the odds of survival increase by 90 percent if a tourniquet is applied quickly and correctly.

Howard said everybody in the room should own a top-grade Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) and know what to do with it. The Army uses the North American Rescue CAT. Makeshift tourniquets, such as belts, are rarely effective. “It’s always good to have one around, especially for people who like to go hunting and fishing,” where accidents are more likely, she said. “You’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to put one on.”

Tourniquet application and other military medical tactics are increasingly relevant in civilian life, Howard said.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more of the battlefield moving into the civilian world,” with bombings and mass shootings such as last year’s assault on the Pulse nightclub in Florida, which killed 49 people. As unlikely as those events are, car crashes and accidents involving power tools are everyday events in which a tourniquet may be useful. “You might be able to save somebody’s life,” Howard said.

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