Former Army Surgeon Recommends Wearable Tourniquets

By Priscilla Ybarra
After witnessing a former colleague bleed to death on the battlefield, former Army surgeon Keith Rose wondered if there was a better way to quickly stanch serious wounds.

One of the most common causes of death on the battlefield is blood loss, yet it also one of the most preventable, he said.

 “When you’re in combat you want something as simple as possible,” said Rose who is now a tactical medical consultant for Blackhawk! Products Group. 

Rose helped design what he calls an “integrated tourniquet system,” which is incorporated into a soldier’s uniform.

“Due to street-to-street combat in the current conflict, the number of extremity injuries has increased,” said Terry Naughton, director of licensed products at Blackhawk, the tourniquet’s manufacturer. A soldier can bleed to death in a little as two minutes, he added. 

Medics now use the combat action tourniquet (CAT). However, the problem isn’t the device, Naughton said, the problem is locating it when injury occurs. The CAT system isn’t carried in a particular spot, it can be located in any one of the soldier’s many pockets, a backpack or vehicle.

Also, once a soldier tries to apply it to the injury, he must strip off any external wear. Because the tourniquets are difficult to locate and apply, soldiers are susceptible to loosing large amounts of blood resulting in infections, loss of oxygen and unfortunately, death, Naughton asserted.

The new tourniquet system however, has been created to maximize efficiency, he said.

The tourniquet, unlike the CAT, is built into a soldier’s uniform — two on each arm and two on each leg. The system has been created for single-hand application and can be activated in seconds. All eight weigh less then one traditional tourniquet. Also, unlike the old system, it can be reused multiple times and employed during training, Naughton said.

Another advantage of the tourniquet system is that it allows time for medics to take care of other medical needs, Naughton said. “It frees up medics for other emergencies.”

“If you have a guy hit, [another soldier] lifts the flap, turns and locks the tourniquet to stop the bleeding,” Rose said.  “We call it active and passive protection because he can stop the bleeding and then pick up a gun and continue.”

Blackhawk has offered the tourniquet to the military services so they can test it.

The company already is selling the product to U.S. special operations forces.

“We hope no one will have to use it,” Naughton said. “But the day it hits the field, it will save lives.”

Topics: Combat Survivability, Land Forces

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