'Long-Disdained' Tourniquets Back in Vogue

Controversial technique finds new support in wake of Boston bombing, wars
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2013 10:07 AM CDT
'Long-Disdained' Tourniquets Back in Vogue
A US Marine staging a pop quiz on how to tie tourniquets for the Afghan army troops he advises.   (AP Photo/Kim Dozier)

Tourniquets have long been cut off from the medical community, derided for decades as too risky due to the possibility that in staunching blood flow, they could force the amputation of a limb. But now some doctors are rethinking their stance, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, bystanders used improvised tourniquets to stop victims from bleeding to death; in Iraq and Afghanistan, studies have found that tourniquets have saved lives, while there's no evidence they were responsible for a solider losing a limb. One big reason why the ancient technique is proving to be OK: It typically takes at least 2 hours for a tourniquet to do enough harm to require amputation, and it's rare for Americans to be more than two hours from a hospital.

"It's kind of a radical change in thinking, because for years we have been teaching that tourniquets should be the absolute last resort," says the associate medical director for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, who has recently started teaching cops how to use tourniquets. Boston police officers have been using them since the bombing, and now Philadelphia plans to follow suit, NBC Philadelphia reports. "We’ve purchased about 5,000 of them," says Philadelphia's police commissioner. "It will be for people who are in the field, working uniform patrol, special patrol and things like that." (More Boston Marathon bombing stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.