Whether from a bullet wound or other traumatic injury, severe blood loss can kill in just five minutes. However, one-fifth of trauma deaths — the leading cause of death for Americans under age 46 — could be prevented by stanching the bleeding. That’s why Scripps doctors support the national Stop the Bleed campaign.
Supported by the American College of Surgeons, the Department of Homeland Security and numerous police departments, the training program aims to teach bystanders how to properly place pressure on a wound or apply a tourniquet in an emergency. Someday, kits with tourniquets and wound dressings might be found alongside defibrillators and first aid kits.
Stopping bleeding can buy valuable time until emergency medical personnel arrive. Bystanders who know how to control bleeding from a serious injury can help buy such time until medical help arrives.
Though the impetus behind Stop the Bleed was the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the proliferation of other active shooter situations across the country, these techniques may prove critical in numerous other settings, says Walter Biffl, MD, trauma medical director at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. “It’s not just for those horrific shooting events. Knowing these maneuvers can be helpful in the home or if you’re driving. You can potentially save a life.”
Steps to stop life-threatening bleeding:
- Direct someone to call 911.
- Cover the wound with a clean cloth, if available, and apply firm, steady pressure with your hands.
- For an arm or leg wound only: Using a belt, piece of clothing, or whatever is available, apply a tourniquet 2 to 3 inches closer to the torso than the wound, avoiding joints. If needed, place a second tourniquet closer to the torso.
- If a tourniquet is not available, pack the wound with gauze and press down on it as hard as you can until help arrives.