UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Tourniquet-induced nerve compression injuries are caused by high pressure levels and gradients – a review of the evidence to guide safe surgical, pre-hospital and blood flow restriction usage Masri, Bassam A.; Eisen, Andrew, 1936-; Duncan, Clive P.; McEwen, James A.


Tourniquets in orthopaedic surgery safely provide blood free surgical fields, but their use is not without risk. Tourniquets can result in temporary or permanent injury to underlying nerves, muscles, blood vessels and soft tissues. Advances in safety, accuracy and reliability of surgical tourniquet systems have reduced nerve-related injuries by reducing pressure levels and pressure gradients, but that may have resulted in reduced awareness of potential injury mechanisms. Short-term use of pre-hospital tourniquets is effective in preventing life-threatening blood loss, but a better understanding of the differences between tourniquets designed for pre-hospital vs surgical use will provide a framework around which to develop guidelines for admitting to hospital individuals with pre-applied tourniquets. Recent evidence supports the application of tourniquets for blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy to reduce muscular atrophy, increase muscle strength, and stimulate bone growth. BFR therapy when appropriately prescribed can augment a surgeon’s treatment plan, improving patient outcomes and reducing recovery time. Key risks, hazards, and mechanisms of injury for surgical, BFR therapy, and pre-hospital tourniquet use are identified, and a description is given of how advances in personalized tourniquet systems have reduced tourniquet-related injuries in these broader settings, increasing patient safety and how these advances are improving treatment outcomes.

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Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)