By definition, a tourniquet is a device that is used to provide constriction at the point of use with the aim of controlling the flow of blood in the veins and arteries to a specific site and over a given period of time. In the context of bleeding, the use of tourniquet in first aid procedures comes in quite handy. Typically, first aid for bleeding involves the application of direct pressure at the site of the injury. Granted, there are instances where this may not work, therefore making it important to know how to handle such cases when giving first aid. Some common examples include when a victim has had their flesh caught in a meat mincer or when there is extreme trauma to the leg. In such severely traumatic cases, what does one do when multiple blood vessels are damaged and it is almost impossible to apply direct pressures? The solution lies in the use of tourniquet in first aid procedures.
It is interesting to note that the use of tourniquets in first aid emergencies has, for a long time, been discouraged. Ideally, the use of a tourniquet involves tying a band at the injured extremity and making it very tight until bleeding comes to a halt. There are two schools of thought as far as this technique is concerned. There are those who are of the opinion that the procedure is risky, while the second school of thought believes that the benefits of using a tourniquet in first aid procedures far outweigh the risks of the same. So, what is the reality of using a tourniquet?
– When a tourniquet is used in an appropriate manner, it serves to restrict blood flow to the affected region.
– The result is that over a period of time, tissue in the affected region starts to die. This leads to the accumulation of metabolites and electrolytes in the tissue.
– The ph of the blood also starts to decrease, creating an acidic environment within the particular extremity.
– The longer the period which during which the tourniquet in first aid procedures is used, the greater the concentration of the toxic metabolites and the lower the pH.
– When the tourniquet is removed, there are high chances that these toxic metabolites will be circulated to the heart, creating a more critical situation.
– More often than not, the only other viable solution in this regard is to perform an amputation.
It is for these reasons that medics do not advocate for the use of tourniquet in first aid procedures. It is very important, however, to make it clear that it is better to undergo amputation than for a victim to die following massive blood loss. Lastly, the use of tourniquets must only be taken up as a last resort when the application of direct pressure is not enough. At the end of the day, the reason for first aid is to help save the victim’s life.