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Ask a Doc: Stop the bleeding!

July 7, 2017
The Republic
Dr. Sydney Vail

Question. Do tourniquets really work?

Answer. After the June 14 shooting outside Washington, a congressman was hailed for saving a staffer’s life by using a tourniquet.

The tourniquet is a simple device, and it’s something that bystanders can use to save a life in an accident or shooting.

The Level I Trauma Team at Maricopa Integrated Health System has trained more than 800 people across Arizona, ranging from teachers to public defenders, on how to use a tourniquet and other medical devices to help slow severe bleeding when tragedy strikes.

MIHS’s “Stop the Bleed” training is free and available to public groups and organizations, whether it’s a PTA, a company group, or public safety or security officers. We’ll take it on the road if there’s a group someplace that wants it.

The training is designed to teach what to do until an emergency services crew arrives. It teaches people how to properly apply direct pressure to an artery, how to apply a tourniquet, how to recognize what life-threatening bleeding is and how to pack severely bleeding wounds with hemostatic gauze — a gauze impregnated with clotting material that helps control a hemorrhage.

People in the class also are given the opportunity to use tourniquets and practice packing wounds on a mannequin. For more information, contact Tracy Brooks, BSN, RN, MIHS Trauma Outreach Coordinator at 602-344-5546 or

It’s unfortunate that such training in needed, but the increase in mass shootings and terrorist attacks around the world demonstrate the need for quick bystander response. Because a person can die from blood loss within five minutes, an important goal of training is that bystanders feel confident to apply a tourniquet.

We hope to never use it but having the knowledge is empowering and could help you save a life.

Dr. Sydney Vail is Chief of Trauma Surgery, Surgical Critical Care and Tactical Medicine for Maricopa Integrated Health System.

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