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Departments : First Look

Life Preserver: The Integrated Tourniquet System

The Integrated Tourniquet System is being built into apparel from Blackhawk and Propper.

April 01, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

As you read this, one of your fellow officers may be bleeding out from an extremity wound. She may have been shot or stabbed by a dirtbag. Or just as likely, he is pinned in a smashed car while rescue personnel desperately try to get to him and render care. Either way, he or she only has minutes to live.

Blood is life. It's something that all of us know but rarely think about. It's something that trauma surgeons and emergency room physicians know better than all of us. They know that the timely application of a tourniquet in the field can save lives.

But there's a problem with traditional tourniquets: You need to have the device with you at the time of injury, not in your bag, backpack, or trunk. When you are bleeding, time is your number one enemy.

This is why trauma surgeon and tactical physician Dr. Keith Rose set out to improve the tourniquet, making it easier for a wounded officer to apply in the heat of battle or after being grievously wounded. And since the one thing that officers always have with them in the field is their clothing, he reasoned that the best way to provide them with tourniquets was to incorporate them into their uniforms.

Rose patented the Integrated Tourniquet System (I.T.S.), then he began to actively seek out a company to produce it. His invention was brought to the attention of Mike Noell, president and CEO of Blackhawk Products Group, who quickly understood its potential to save lives. Last year Blackhawk built the I.T.S. into its Warrior Wear line. It also reported that it would license the technology to other manufacturers of uniforms and tactical apparel.

I.T.S. is now also being built into ACU pants and shirts made by Propper. And Terry Naughton, Blackhawk's director of licensed product, says the company is searching for partners who will license I.T.S. and build it into Class A and Class B police uniforms.

"This technology will have a direct impact on saving lives. So we have taken the path of licensing it out to leading manufacturers to place more units  on the street sooner," Naughton says.

Rose says extremity wounds are the leading cause of preventable deaths in tactical situations. "There's story after story of police officers who have bled out because of extremity wounds," he says. "They don't normally carry tourniquets, and they aren't trained in tactical medicine. It would be so simple to incorporate this into their uniforms."

The I.T.S. is a reusable (for practice) tourniquet system. To access it, all the wearer has to do is lift a Velcro-sealed pocket, pull out the injection-molded carbon fiber tourniquet, and secure it. It stops blood flow in 10 to 15 seconds. Rose says that's fast enough that a wounded operator or officer can keep fighting, if necessary.

The I.T.S. system is not cheap; it essentially doubles the price of the garment, but Rose argues that the extra money is well spent.

First and foremost, Rose says it has the potential to save lives. Second, it saves blood and blood loss is not cheap in terms of recovery time or intensive care costs. "Even if you are saved, you will require multiple transfusions and there is a possibility of high morbidity. You're going to be in the hospital a long time," Rose explains. "You should have the I.T.S.; it can save your life and make your recovery much easier."

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