Aim To determine the prevalence of tourniquet use in combat trauma, the contribution to lives saved and the complications of their use in this environment.
Population All casualties treated at UK field hospital facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan and meeting criteria for entry into UK Joint Theatre Trauma Registry (JTTR) from 04 Feb 03 to 30 Sep 07.
Methods Cases were identified from UK JTTR. Casualties from Permanent Joint Overseas Bases (PJOBs) were excluded. ISS, NISS, TRISS and ASCOT were calculated automatically within JTTR from AIS 2005 (Military) codes.
Results 1375 patients met UK JTTR entry criteria for the period specified (excluding PJOBs). 70/1375 patients (5.1%) were treated with one or more tourniquets (total 107 tourniquet applications). 61/70 (87%) survived their injuries. 17/70 (24%) patients had 2 or more tourniquets applied. 64/70 patients received a tourniquet after April 2006, when tourniquets were introduced as an individual first aid item. 43/70 (61%) patients were UK military.
Conclusions ISS and TRISS are poorly representative of injury severity and outcome for combat trauma involving isolated multiple limb injuries and cannot be used to discriminate whether a tourniquet is life-saving. The presence of severe isolated limb injuries, profound hypovolaemic shock and the requirement for massive transfusion reasonably identifies a cohort where the use of one or more tourniquets pre-hospital to control external bleeding can be said to be life-saving.
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