Loss of too much blood is one of the leading causes of death in most cases where the patient has met with an accident or a severe injury. Therefore, while dealing with small to significantly bigger health conditions, one of the most important concerns in the emergency room is to control the rate of flow of blood. This highly important task can be performed by the use of the simplest medical device called a tourniquet. Let us dig deeper into what a tourniquet actually is and which of its type is superior over the other in terms of its utility.
What are tourniquets?
A tourniquet is a simple strap that is employed to hinder the blood supply towards a particular body part during emergencies, traumatic conditions, or post-operative rehabilitation. Mostly, it is applied around the limbs to restrict the blood flow toward the extremities. This simple yet highly useful medical device has various applications when it comes to its utility.
When to use a tourniquet?
A tourniquet can be employed for various reasons which range from everyday activities to more life-saving situations. These include:
- While taking a blood sample, a tourniquet is frequently applied.
- Administration of medication via intravenous route is also followed by a prior application of a tourniquet.
Additionally, in case of any of the following situations, the use of a tourniquet can be live saving:
- In case of severe bleeding from an open wound caused due to an injury or trauma, a tourniquet may be applied as a first-aid device to diminish the flow of blood toward the exposed area to reduce blood loss.
- In case of a poison in the bloodstream that is likely to spread to the other body parts via blood, e.g. after a snake bite, etc., a tourniquet can be employed to restrict the blood flow from the affected area towards the other body parts.
A tourniquet is affixed to the forearm
Types of tourniquets
Many different kinds of tourniquets are available in the market today which give the physician an option to choose according to the patient’s condition. These include:
- Surgical tourniquets
- Emergency tourniquets
- Combat application tourniquets
- Clinical tourniquets
- Rehabilitation tourniquets
Preparation materials for tourniquets
Commercially available tourniquets are prepared with the following materials:
However, considering how simple a tourniquet device is, it can also be prepared manually in case of an emergency situation with the help of a scarf, a t-shirt, a bandana, or any other piece of clothing which is in the form of a strap.
Reusable vs disposable tourniquets
Two versions of tourniquets are manufactured and marketed which include reusable and disposable tourniquets. Both have their own advantages as well as demerits.
A reusable tourniquet is a silicone or rubber-based elastic strap with a clip or tightening system attached to one end. It is, as the name suggests, meant to be used multiple times. Therefore, it is to be washed and dried prior to each application.
Merits of reusable tourniquets
There are multiple merits of reusable tourniquets such as their more than one utilization helps reduce medical waste. Being very easy to use, they can be employed very quickly in case of an emergency situation.
Demerits of reusable tourniquets
With the ease of multiple usages, reusable tourniquets pose a problem of transmitting infectious pathogens to patients. If not washed and sterilized properly, there is a possibility of a bacterial buildup in them which can, in some cases, cause severe infections in the patients. Furthermore, if a tourniquet is extremely dirty, it can cause irritation to the patient’s skin.
Disposable tourniquets are single-use devices that can be used and discarded. These are prepared by using soft materials including plastic and are completely latex-free.
Merits of disposable tourniquets
Along with their uncomplicated and quick employment, the disposable tourniquets provide higher patient comfort. Compared to reusable tourniquets, they are more economical. Furthermore, there is no need of washing them after every use as they are discarded immediately after one use. Moreover, the chances of the transfer of infection with the employment of disposable tourniquets are also significantly lowered.
Demerits of disposable tourniquets
As tourniquets are one of the most frequently used products in hospitals, they can significantly add up to medical waste owing to their one-time application per product. This factor, despite the lower cost per product, makes them occupy a heavy share of the hospital budget.
Comparison of reusable and disposable tourniquets
A comparison of reusable and disposable tourniquets has been enlisted below:
|Parameters||Reusable tourniquets||Disposable tourniquets|
|Ease of tying||Easy to tie||Comparatively hard to tie|
|Patient’s comfort level||Higher||High|
|Clinical wastage||Reduced waste||High waist|
|Chances of bacterial buildup||High||Minimum to zero|
Tourniquets are one of the most widely used medical devices. Due to their multiple and highly important applications, the tourniquets, both reusable as well as disposable types, are one of the runniest products in hospital setups. Although both types of tourniquets have their own utility, studies have reported a 6% greater chance of contracting an infection with the use of reusable tourniquets which is a significant figure. Keeping this in mind, it can be concluded that the disposable type of tourniquet is superior to the reusable one.