Techniques and Procedures| Volume 60, ISSUE 1, P98-102, January 2021

Removal of the Prehospital Tourniquet in the Emergency Department

Published:December 07, 2020DOI:



      Life-threatening hemorrhage from extremity injuries can be effectively controlled in the prehospital environment through direct pressure, wound packing, and the use of tourniquets. Early tourniquet application has been prioritized for rapid control of severe extremity hemorrhage and is a cornerstone of prehospital trauma resuscitation guidelines. Emergency physicians must be knowledgeable regarding the initial assessment and appropriate management of patients who present with a prehospital tourniquet in place.


      An interdisciplinary group of experts including emergency physicians, trauma surgeons, and tactical and Emergency Medical Services physicians collaborated to develop a stepwise approach to the assessment and removal (discontinuation) of an extremity tourniquet in the emergency department after being placed in the prehospital setting. We have developed a best-practices guideline to serve as a resource to aid the emergency physician in how to safely remove a tourniquet. The guideline contains five steps that include: 1) Determine how long the tourniquet has been in place; 2) Evaluate for contraindications to tourniquet removal; 3) Prepare for tourniquet removal; 4) Release the tourniquet; and 5) Monitor and reassess the patient.


      These steps outlined will help emergency medicine clinicians appropriately evaluate and manage patients presenting with tourniquets in place. Tourniquet removal should be performed in a systematic manner with plans in place to immediately address complications.


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