Tourniquets, once out of favor, helped save lives in Vegas shootings

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – When the sniper’s bullet shattered Paola Bautista’s arm, her sister and a stranger in the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival got her to cover. Then they focused on the bleeding.

Daisy Bautista stuffed a sock into the hole in her sister’s arm, and the man who was helping them pulled a belt tight above the wound. That improvisation may have saved Paola’s life, preventing the kind of massive blood loss that is the single greatest cause of trauma death.

Bautista, a country music lover from California, is one of several Las Vegas shooting victims who benefited from the use of a controversial and centuries-old life-saving tool that is making a comeback – the tourniquet.

Although it has been around since the Middle Ages, the tourniquet fell out of favor in recent decades because of concerns that it increased the risk of amputation. Now, that notion has given way to a new medical consensus that it is better to save a life than a limb – and to recent battlefield evidence that the risk of amputation today is quite low.

The new view entered the medical mainstream after the 2012 mass slayings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Under a directive from then-President Barack Obama to find ways to improve survival in such attacks, a group of doctors published the “Hartford Consensus,” a compendium of best practices and guidelines headlined by a call to revive the tourniquet.

Since then, more than 200,000 police officers in major U.S. cities have been trained to use the low-tech lifesaver. The National Security Council, with trauma and emergency care groups, has launched a “Stop the Bleed” campaign to promote training among civilians. And shopping malls and airports have begun installing bleed control kits – including tourniquets – on public walls next to emergency defibrillators.

“We want to turn it into the next CPR,” said Ian Weston, a paramedic and executive director of the American Trauma Society.

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