Friday, September 30, 2011

New Tourniquet Design

Coming from an emergency medical background, I recommend humanitarian workers in conflict zones carry what cops, the military, and PMC-types call a "blow-out" kit. This is small first aid kit that contains gloves, a tourniquet, compressed gauze, and some type of a blood-stopping bandage (also known as a pressure dressing). In case of a gunshot wound, explosion, or any event that causes serious bleeding, the kit can be used to save a life (your's or someone else's). You can bleed out from a bad arterial wound in two minutes, so stopping severe bleeding quickly is critical.

Although tourniquets are taught to be a tool of last resort in many first aid classes, they've become primary and proven lifesavers in conflict zones. Thanks to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tourniquets have vastly improved in design and function. There are a number of different types available, including windlass, ratchet, and compression (check out Chinook Medical for examples).

There's also a brand new tourniquet that just appeared on the market that falls into the "why didn't I think of that" product category. Essentially it's an oversize plastic zip-tie. Called the Cobra Tourniquet it's advertised as simple to use, fast, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive. I'm waiting for some military and independent trials before recommending it for blow-out kits (SOFT, CAT, and TK-4 are still the best tourniquets out there, in my opinion), but it looks interesting. I'll update this post when I see test results.

There have been quite a number of medical advances in battlefield trauma treatment in the last decade - including the rapid use of tourniquets on severely bleeding extremities. These new military protocols and products are gradually being adopted by civilian emergency medical providers and will eventually be incorporated into standard first aid classes. That said, Always have training to go with the medical gear you're carrying. If you're interested in learning first aid that's applicable to conflict zones, I'd recommend (at least in the U.S.) looking for Tactical EMS/First Aid classes. These are targeted to law enforcement and security contractors, but the skill sets are also applicable to NGO staff working in harm's way. I've heard some humanitarian training organizations are starting to offer classes that go beyond standard first aid. I believe this is long overdue. More on that in a future post.



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