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Impact of time and distance on outcomes following tourniquet use in civilian and military settings: A scoping review

Published:January 18, 2023DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.injury.2023.01.031

      Highlights

      • Tourniquets have a well-established role in managing acute limb trauma with hemorrhage control in both civilian and military settings.
      • Available literature describes different patterns of injury between civilian and military landscapes.
      • There is limited research focussed on potential metabolic outcomes following prolonged tourniquet application > 2 h.
      • This scoping review found an inverse association between tourniquet time and limb salvage. The overall limb salvage rate was 69.6%.
      • Further research is needed to define the metabolic effects with tourniquet ischemia and balance the iatrogenic risks for ‘life and limb’ salvage.

      Abstract

      Background

      The last two decades have seen the reintroduction of tourniquets into guidelines for the management of acute limb trauma requiring hemorrhage control. Evidence supporting tourniquet application has demonstrated low complication rates in modern military settings involving rapid evacuation timeframes. It is unclear how these findings translate to patients who have prolonged transport times from injury in rural settings. This scoping review investigates the relationship between time and distance on metabolic complications, limb salvage and mortality following tourniquet use in civilian and military settings.

      Methods

      A systematic search strategy was conducted using PubMed, Embase, and SafetyLit databases. Study characteristics, setting, mechanism of injury, prehospital time, tourniquet time, distance, limb salvage, metabolic response, mortality, and tourniquet removal details were extracted from eligible studies. Descriptive statistics were recorded, and studies were grouped by ischemia time (< 2 h, 2–4 h, or > 4 h).

      Results

      The search identified 3103 studies, from which 86 studies were included in this scoping review. Of the 86 studies, 55 studies were primarily in civilian environments and 32 were based in military settings. One study included both settings. Blast injury was the most common mechanism of injury sustained by patients in military settings (72.8% [5968/8200]) followed by penetrating injury (23.5% [1926/8200]). In contrast, in civilian settings penetrating injury was the most common mechanism (47.7% [1633/3426]) followed by blunt injury (36.4% [1246/3426]).
      Tourniquet time was reported in 66/86 studies. Tourniquet time over four hours was associated with reduced limb salvage rates (57.1%) and higher mortality rates (7.1%) compared with a tourniquet time of less than two hours. The overall limb salvage and mortality rates were 69.6% and 6.7% respectively. Metabolic outcomes were reported in 28/86 studies with smaller sample sizes and inconsistencies in which parameters were reported.

      Conclusion

      This scoping review presents literature describing comparatively safe tourniquet application when used for less than two hours duration. However, there is limited research describing prolonged tourniquet application or when used for protracted distances, such that the impact of tourniquet release time on metabolic outcomes and complications remains unclear. Prospective studies utilizing the development of an international database to provide this dataset is required.

      Keywords

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