In case of emergency, Dr. Travis demonstrates how to fashion an emergency tourniquet and stop severe bleeding.
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Dr. Travis Stork: When an emergency happens, it's important to stay calm because what you do in those precious minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Our next question is an email from Paula, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and she writes, Dear doctors, I recently came upon a car accident. The person was severely injured and bleeding from their leg. I felt helpless until an ambulance arrived. If this happens again, what can I do if someone is bleeding uncontrollably from an injury? I'm so glad you asked this question, because this is something anyone can do and it can save a life. I've had people unfortunately coming to the ER, where people stood around and did nothing and they die, you can't bleed out. How do you stop severe bleeding? But first of all I'll tell you, yes I'm an ER doc, but I always carry a pair of gloves with me in my car, if I'm out hiking. So put rubber gloves on, and then take any sort of cloth and apply it directly to the bleeding wound and hold pressure and don't let up until help arrives. If you find despite the pressure, there is still a massive amount of blood coming from the wound, it maybe an arterial injury. I'm not recommending this except as a last resort, but you can consider tourniquet if direct pressure is doing nothing. There are different ways to use a tourniquet, rubber will work, some people will use the belt, if that's all you have. Dr. Jim Sears: Whatever you have. Dr. Travis Stork: Almost always you're going to have a piece of cloth. So if you rip your shirt, you make it, you fold it over on itself. Let's say Lisa is bleeding from her radial artery here in the wrist, which can literally be spirting across through and that's how you know it's an arterial injury -- every time your heart beats -- you tie this just above where the bleed is. Unfortunately, just tying a knot is not going to usually do the trick, if you have something like a stick, you can actually take the stick above it, tie another knot, and then you can use this as a torque and literally torque this thing. You see how tight that's getting? Female Speaker: It's getting tight. Dr. Travis Stork: I actually can turn this to the point where I will no longer feel her artery. Male Speaker: And we'll stop now. Male Speaker: Say, saving her life man. Dr. Travis Stork: But that's like quite frankly, that's why I tell people only use this, if there is nothing else working, because you can literally lose a limb from using a tourniquet. There's commercial devices -- Dr. Jim Sears: And this is really nice, it kind of slides on, you snug it up, and you just turn the crank, it tightens it. Then you can see the bleeding stop, it's getting pretty darn tight. No bleeding here. Dr. Travis Stork: I'll tell you right now one of my biggest pet peeves. This drives me crazy as an ER doctor, is I see bleeding wounds all the time, don't do this. Don't just take a piece of cloth and just, oh I've covered the wound now. I can't see it, and it like turns immediately red and blood is going everywhere and you just look at it. You've got to apply that direct pressure. The bandage itself isn't going to stop the bleeding. So great question Paula, we appreciate you writing in about it. Always remember, if you are someone you know severely injured, call 911 for help.