Want To Save A Life? Learn How To Use A Tourniquet05:08
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Two staffers from the Three Village Central School District in Stony Brook, N.Y., practice applying a tourniquet to one another during a first aid training session at Stony Brook University, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, in New York. (Michael Balsamo/AP)
Two staffers from the Three Village Central School District in Stony Brook, N.Y., practice applying a tourniquet to one another during a first aid training session at Stony Brook University, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, in New York. (Michael Balsamo/AP)
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One of the leading causes of preventable death in accidents is loss of blood. And one of the best ways to stop serious bleeding is with a tourniquet. Many people had been taught to use tourniquets only as a last resort because it would lead to the loss of the limb. But that idea is out of date, according to health professionals.

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with Andrew Fisher (@FisherAD1), a volunteer with the Stop the Bleed campaign and a former physician assistant with the 75th Army Rangers, about the lifesaving value of tourniquets.

Interview Highlights

On the ease of using tourniquets

When it comes to hemorrhage control, tourniquets — the ones that are proven to be effective, — are not necessarily difficult to operate. It doesn't take much training to be proficient in the application, but certainly just like any other skill it is perishable, and you should maintain some sort of regular training to ensure that you're proficient in your application.

On tourniquets' safety

The old "tourniquet and you're going to lose your limb" scenario, it's for the most part false. Tourniquets have been used on thousand of extremities in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the result is that zero limbs were lost due to that tourniquet use. Certainly by and large, two hours of tourniquet time is very safe, with very little adverse outcomes.

On efforts to train more people to use tourniquets

If you look at some of the data from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates, it's not very good. Yet we still teach it to a lot of people, and we should. If we can save lives, we should definitely put forth the effort. The problem is I don't think we're putting forth that same effort for bleeding control. I think if you look at the instances like Las Vegas and other terrorist activities, it does cause people to discuss and talk about it and get the training at that time, but we kind of see that interest just kind of dissipate. It would be nice if we could find a way to keep that movement alive.

A lot of people who go into cardiac arrest have preexisting conditions. They're probably not going to survive based upon some of the data. But people who have accidents at home or on the road, then they have this bleeding, certainly they can survive with simple bleeding control maneuvers.

On improvising a tourniquet

You should be able to apply direct pressure or pack a wound. Things like belts haven't been demonstrated to be very effective when it comes to improvised tourniquets I think the important thing about improvised tourniquets is to ensure that it has some sort of windlass. The windlass is the device that allows you to tighten that tourniquet in order to control the bleeding.

This segment aired on October 18, 2017.

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