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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Comparison of Pressures Applied by Digital Tourniquets in the Emergency Department

Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license

Background: Digital tourniquets used in the emergency department have been scrutinized due to complications associated with their use, including neurovascular injury secondary to excessive tourniquet pressure and digital ischemia caused by a forgotten tourniquet. To minimize these risks, a conspicuous tourniquet that applies the least amount of pressure necessary to maintain hemostasis is recommended.

Objective: To evaluate the commonly used tourniquet methods, the Penrose drain, rolled glove, the Tourni-cot and the T-Ring, to determine which applies the lowest pressure while consistently preventing digital perfusion.

Methods: We measured the circumference of selected digits of 200 adult males and 200 adult females to determine the adult finger size range. We then measured the pressure applied to four representative finger sizes using a pressure monitor and assessed the ability of each method to prevent digital blood flow with a pulse oximeter.

Results: We selected four representative finger sizes: 45mm, 65mm, 70mm, and 85mm to test the different tourniquet methods. All methods consistently prevented digital perfusion. The highest pressure recorded for the Penrose drain was 727 mmHg, the clamped rolled glove 439, the unclamped rolled glove 267, Tourni-cot 246, while the T-Ring had the lowest at 151 mmHg and least variable pressures of all methods.

Conclusion: All tested methods provided adequate hemostasis. Only the Tourni-cot and T-Ring provided hemostasis at safe pressures across all digit sizes with the T-Ring having a lower overall average pressure. [West J Emerg Med. 2011;12(2):242-249.]

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