Patient Safety Topics
Pneumatic Tourniquets

Pneumatic tourniquets are used to produce a bloodless field during limb surgery and frequently also to facilitate intravenous regional anesthesia. However, their failure or misuse can lead to multiple complications including muscle ischemia, nerve damage, convulsions, and coma.

Key Data and Statistics

From December 2004 through December 2009, 140 events associated with the use of tourniquets in surgical procedures were reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, including the following:

  • Limb redness, bruising, or swelling (41%)
  • Skin tears or blisters (19%)
  • Unintended deflation or "tourniquet failure" (14%)
  • Cuff inflation time for more than two hours (8%)
  • Opposite limb was prepped and, in some cases, the cuff was applied (6%)
  • "Partial occlusion" (4%)
  • Cuff was not removed immediately after deflation (4%)
  • Opposite limb was injected or incised (4%)
  • Esmarch bandage as a tourniquet for more than two hours, which produced blistering (0.7%)
Educational Tools

Strategies for Pneumatic Tourniquet Use
This educational poster highlights fundamental strategies (e.g., cuff selection) for facilities to address with staff.


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