Tourniquets: When to Use Them

Surgeons, doctors and nurses already know everything that they need to know about tourniquets but, most of us that are not in the medical field, do not. Learning when to use a tourniquet during emergencies can make a huge difference in the final outcome, so let’s get straight to it next.

What are Tourniquets?

Tourniquets are medical straps and binds used to prevent and stem internal/external bleeding in medical situations or during a surgery. They are also used in some parts of the country to keep venom temporarily localized after a snakebite, until the victim can receive medical help.

Although not as effective as professional equipment, makeshift tourniquets can be made from clothing in emergency situations, provided that no immediate medical help is available. However, the person making and applying the makeshift tourniquet must know how wide and tight they need to be, depending on the cause.

In What Situations are Tourniquets Used?

All tourniquets serve the primary purpose of applying pressure around a vein, a section of the affected limb, or around a wound to:

  • Stop blood loss after an injury
  • Prevent the circulation of venom through the blood after a snakebite
  • Prevent blood loss during a surgery
  • Pop a vein for intravenous injections and sample collection

When to Use a Tourniquet: The Basic Rules

Unfortunately, tourniquets can turn out to be ineffective or even harmful in the case that the person applying it does not have a basic understanding of the rules. Below, we have listed the most important ones, so that readers can figure out when to use a tourniquet:

  • The haemorrhage, snakebite or wound must be on a limb, or tourniquets are not an option
  • Pneumatic tourniquets are to be used in an operation theatre to minimise or prevent blood loss during surgery
  • Arterial tourniquets should only be tied when direct pressure on a profusely bleeding wound is insufficient to prevent blood loss
  • Combat application tourniquets (CAT) are to be applied only in case of severe, life-threatening injuries, as they will shut off the victim’s arterial circulation almost immediately
  • If a tourniquet is being applied to prevent venom circulation, it must not be tight enough to prevent arterial blood flow

All the different types of tourniquets and other minor surgery surgical equipment can be ordered online at an affordable rate from sites like Medical Supermarket.

Should a Tourniquet be Applied to Prevent Venom Circulation After a Snakebite?

There is only one moderately venomous specie of snake in all of the UK, so it is best not to use a tourniquet at all after a snakebite. Just try not to move as much as possible and call for help. However, this applies only if the person bitten was not in an international location at that time.

On the other hand, if a person is bitten by a venomous snake outside the UK, a tourniquet can be the difference between life and death. It needs to be just tight enough so that the binding can stop the victim’s peripheral circulation. It cannot be so tight that the tourniquet begins to restrict their arterial blood flow at the same time. This is a dangerous decision either way, but there are snakes abroad with enough venom in their bites to make tourniquets worth the risk.


Pete White Pete White

Love Shrewsbury editor and chief developer at The Web Orchard, find out more on

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