The trauma center is too late: Major limb trauma without a pre-hospital tourniquet has increased death from hemorrhagic shock : Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery

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AAST 2016 Plenary Papers

The trauma center is too late: Major limb trauma without a pre-hospital tourniquet has increased death from hemorrhagic shock

Scerbo, Michelle H. MD, MS; Holcomb, John B. MD; Taub, Ethan DO; Gates, Keith MD; Love, Joseph D. DO; Wade, Charles E. PhD; Cotton, Bryan A. MD, MPH

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Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 83(6):p 1165-1172, December 2017. | DOI: 10.1097/TA.0000000000001666



To date, no civilian studies have demonstrated that pre-hospital (PH) tourniquets improve survival. We hypothesized that late, trauma center (TC) tourniquet use would increase death from hemorrhagic shock compared to early (PH) placement.


All patients arriving to a Level 1, urban TC between October 2008 and January 2016 with a tourniquet placed before (T-PH) or after arrival to the TC (T-TC) were evaluated. Cases were assigned the following designations: indicated (absolute indication [vascular injury requiring repair/ligation, operation within 2 hours for extremity injury, or traumatic amputation] or relative indication [major musculoskeletal/soft tissue injury requiring operation 2–8 hours after arrival, documented large blood loss]) or non-indicated. Outcomes were death from hemorrhagic shock, physiology upon arrival to the TC, and massive transfusion requirements. After univariate analysis, logistic regression was carried out to assess independent predictors of death from hemorrhagic shock.


A total of 306 patients received 326 tourniquets for injuries to 157 upper and 147 lower extremities. Two hundred eighty-one (92%) had an indication for placement. Seventy percent of patients had a blunt mechanism of injury. T-TC patients arrived with a lower systolic blood pressure (SBP, 101 [86, 123] vs. 125 [100, 145] mm Hg, p < 0.001), received more transfusions in the first hour of arrival (55% vs. 34%, p = 0.02), and had a greater mortality from hemorrhagic shock (14% vs. 3.0%, p = 0.01). When controlling for year of admission, mechanism of injury and shock upon arrival (SBP ≤90 mm Hg or HR ≥120 bpm or base deficit ≤ 4) indicated T-TC had a 4.5-fold increased odds of death compared to T-PH (OR 4.5, 95% CI 1.23–16.4, p = 0.02).


Waiting until TC arrival to control hemorrhage with a tourniquet was associated with worsened blood pressure and increased transfusion within the first hour of arrival. In routine civilian trauma patients, delaying to T-TC was associated with 4.5-fold increased odds of mortality from hemorrhagic shock.


Level IV.

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