A new design for a tourniquet for use in combat has brought the devices back into favor with Army surgeons.
The Combat Application Tourniquet was tested along with eight other tourniquets in 2004 at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, Texas. The evaluation was prompted because many deploying Soldiers and units were purchasing tourniquets off the Internet, but the tourniquets’ effectiveness had not been determined. Once testing was complete, the institute’s researchers recommended the Combat Application Tourniquet be pushed to deployed troops to stop otherwise lethal blood loss.
“If USAISR (U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research) hadn’t done the work, there still wouldn’t have been an effective tourniquet out there,” said Dr. Tom Walters of the institute that studies how to save the lives of Soldiers who are wounded in combat.
Up until that point, he added, the tourniquets that were available through the military’s supply system included a cravat-and-stick tourniquet that Soldiers were taught how to use in basic training and the strap-and-buckle tourniquet that dated back to the American Civil War. The latter “had always been known to be ineffective,” Walters said.
In the “tourniquet-off” held at the institute during the summer of 2004, 18 volunteers helped evaluate the nine tourniquets’ ability to cut off blood flow. When the results were in, the CAT, as well as two other tourniquets, came out on top. The CAT had a smaller learning curve than the others, so researchers recommended it for the Army. The Marine Corps has adopted it as well.
“Tourniquets are being used on almost every extremity injury, and they are saving lives,” said Holcomb, who was recently deployed as a surgeon at the 10th Combat Support Hospital in Iraq. “Tourniquets were rarely seen early in the war, and now it’s abnormal to see a severe extremity injury without a functional tourniquet in place. There is no pre-hospital device deployed in this war that has saved more lives than tourniquets.”
While it’s certainly come at a tremendous human cost, the Iraq war has shown us entire fields of technology where we’ve been lacking. Say what you will about technology that improves offensive potential, but innovations to keep soldiers and civilians alive are always good ideas.
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