Updated: Jul 19, 2020
Stopping arterial blood loss is critical to survival after injury to a limb, and the best way to achieve it is by applying a tourniquet. First responders and army medics almost always have a tactical tourniquet as an easily accessible part of their gear, as it can be the difference between life and death after a traumatic injury.
FACT: The number 1 cause of preventable death on the battlefield is haemorrhaging, which is also the most treatable outcome of trauma.
Recent upgrades to tactical tourniquets
Tourniquets have been in use for hundreds of years, but it’s only in recent years that research into their design and effectiveness has been applied. The most significant upgrades to modern day tactical tourniquets are their windlass and band mechanisms, that allow for a much quicker and tighter application.
To better adapt tourniquets for tactical purposes, an emphasis has also been placed on making self application easier, to reduce bleeding time, and put fewer people in harm's way.
Choosing the best tactical tourniquet
When selecting the best tourniquet for Medetac, we compared the two best options on the market, the SAM XT (extremity tourniquet) and the CAT tourniquet (combat application tourniquet). Both are recommended by CoTCCC, but let’s dive right in and see who wins on the battlefield.
Tourniquet effectiveness depends on slack reduction
The key to tourniquet effectiveness is tightness, which is why modern designs focus on slack reduction as the main objective. Any slack in the band will prevent the tourniquet from completely pinching off arterial blood flow. Both the SAM XT and Cat Tourniquet are capable of eliminating virtually all slack, and stopping blood flow in just a few seconds, so what sets them apart?
Risk of excess strap
A key consideration for medics in the field is the management of excess strap. Especially when a tourniquet is applied to the upper arm, there’s often a long piece of excess strap which has to be either removed, or wrapped and secured very well.
Excess strap is a risk factor, as it can easily get caught while mobilizing a patient, and loosen the tourniquet. In a high stress evacuation this can happen without medics even noticing, and can have deadly consequences.
With the SAM XT you’re able to cut off the excess strap without it affecting the grip of the Truforce buckle. The Cat tourniquet strap cannot be cut more than 2 inches without compromising its grip, losing all ability to be tightened, and rendering it completely useless.
Ease of use is critical
Studies have shown that previous models of the CAT tourniquet often failed to achieve the full extent of their effectiveness, because users didn’t pull the band tight enough before windlass twisting, and often didn’t give the windlass enough rotations. The makers of the CAT tourniquet have addressed these issues, and other quality concerns, in the CAT 7 model, by giving it a more durable windlass, and a single routing rod, for easier application. Although by comparison, the SAM XT is still easier to apply, especially during self application.
Self application of tactical tourniquets
In a tactical setting, where wounded are under fire, it’s always preferable for them to be able to apply a tactical tourniquet themselves, in which case, ease of use is critical. Next to any other competitor, SAM XT stands out with its patented auto-lock mechanism, making self application & one handed application much easier.
How does the design of SAM XT differ from the CAT Tourniquet?
The SAM XT has holes along its strap, and prongs on the buckle, so when exactly the right amount of tension is achieved, the mechanism auto-locks. This system eliminates slack, and is far easier to apply on oneself. The patented auto-lock system gives one the assurance that it’s been applied tightly, and its ease of use leaves no room for error.
With these benefits in mind, the SAM XT was recommended by the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC), and is our top choice of tactical tourniquet.
What about pelvic haemorrhaging?
Traditional tourniquets are designed for the extremities, but when there’s haemorrhaging in the axilla or inguinal areas, a junctional tourniquet can provide life saving support, stop bleeding and immobilize pelvic fractures. Read about the SAM Junctional Tourniquet, winner of the Greatest Innovation Award from the U.S Army, and junctional tourniquet of choice for medics from the IDF, NATO and U.S army.
Assessing the Current Generation of Tourniquets
Shimon Katsnelson, BSc*; Jessie Oppenheimer, BSc*; MAJ Rafi Gerrasi, BSc†; LTC Ariel Furer, MD‡; Linn Wagnert-Avraham, PhD*; LTC Arik Eisenkraft, MD, MHA (res.)*; MAJ Dean Nachman, MD (res.)*§
PR Newswire: “SAM Medical's SAM Junctional Tourniquet Receives Greatest Innovation Award From The U.S. Army” Article provided by SAM Medical