Extended (16-Hour) Tourniquet Application After Combat Wounds: A Case Report and Review of the Current Literature

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Summary:We present a case of emergency tourniquet use of unusually long duration. The patient was wounded during combat operations, and the subsequent battle and evacuation caused a significant delay in surgical treatment of his wounds. Emergency tourniquets can be lifesaving, but are not benign interventions. In general, the extent of tourniquet injury increases with increasing time of application. Despite having a tourniquet in place for 16 hours, the limb was salvaged and significant functional recovery was accomplished. We conducted a search of the published literature including the Medline database, and present a review of the relevant articles concerning emergency tourniquet use, tourniquet injury, and mitigating treatments. Given the widespread use of tourniquets in ongoing military operations, it seems likely that tourniquets will transition to civilian use. Thus it is important for physicians to understand tourniquet injury and appreciate that even extended tourniquet application times does not necessarily doom the affected limb.

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