The use of the tourniquet in medical emergencies is most often necessary with uncontrollable bleeding. While it is possible to suffer uncontrollable bleeding from smaller wounds; victims who bleed out often do so because they have cut an artery. You will often know that you have cut an artery as you will view blood spurting and the blood will be bright red. Other signs of uncontrolled bleeding include a victim that may be unconscious, or a full or partial amputation. Unfortunately, a person with a severed artery can often die in 2-3 minutes.
So what do you do? The first thing that you want to to is ensure that the scene is safe. Next, call 911 and find the wound and apply direct pressure. The next step is to apply a dressing and continue to press. Lastly, the application of the tourniquet requires the first responder to WRAP the tourniquet, WIND the tourniquet, SECURE the tourniquet, and write the TIME the tourniquet was applied on the tourniquet itself.
You might not have a tourniquet available but if you do, tie it off between the blood flow and the exit wound. If the wound happens to be too large to control with a tourniquet then grab a clean cloth or hemostatic gauze and pack the wound and apply pressure.
Here at Help-A-Heart CPR, we now offer an Advanced Bleeding Control certification class. This class will provide the students with the tools and knowledge to determine when and how to manage both controllable and uncontrollable bleeding both with and without a tourniquet.
Dr. Tracy A. Jones is an American Heart Association, ASHI, and American Red Cross Master Program Trainer, Instructor, & AHA Faculty Member located in San Antonio, Texas.