Military enthusiasm for limb tourniquet use in combat casualty care has resulted in acceptance by the trauma community for use in the prehospital care of civilian limb injuries. To date, there has been no report synthesizing the published data on civilian tourniquet use. The objective of this systematic review was to compile and analyze the content and quality of published data on the civilian use of tourniquets in limb trauma.
The MEDLINE database was searched for studies on civilian limb tourniquet use in adults published between 2001 and 2017. Search terms were tourniquet, trauma, and injury. Military reports and case series lacking systematic data collection were excluded. Counts and percentages were aggregated and weighted for analysis.
Reports were included from six regional trauma centers and one interregional collaboration (total of 572 cases). One national prehospital database report was included but analyzed separately (2,048 cases). All were retrospective cohort studies without prospective data collection. Three reports defined a primary outcome, two had a nontourniquet control group, and no two articles reported the same variables. Limb injury severity and characteristics were inconsistently and incompletely described across reports, as were tourniquet indications and effectiveness. Arterial injury was reported in two studies and was infrequent among cases of tourniquet use. Mortality was low, and limb-specific complications were infrequent but variably reported.
The rapid increase in the civilian use of tourniquets for limb hemorrhage control has occurred without a large amount or high quality of data. Adoption of a multicenter registry with standardized data collection specific to limb trauma and tourniquet use can serve to improve the trauma community's understanding of the safety and effectiveness of tourniquet use in civilian trauma settings.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE
Systematic review, level IV.