Removal of a tourniquet after it has been applied needs to be done carefully. Release of a tourniquet can result in rebleeding or the reperfusion syndrome. King et al listed guidelines for the removal of a tourniquet.


General guidelines for removal of a tourniquet:

(1) A narrow or improvised tourniquet should be replaced with a better tourniquet as soon as possible.

(2) A tourniquet should only be removed by someone with the appropriate medical training.

(3) A tourniquet should not be removed from a patient in shock unless the means to resuscitate the patient are immediately available.

(4) A tourniquet should not be removed if the site cannot be observed for rebleeding.

Time Since Application of the Tourniquet


1-2 hours

Loosen the tourniquet once to determine if rebleeding occurs and if there is continued need for the tourniquet (exception: amputated limb)

2 hours

Usual time limit for an operative tourniquet.

2 - 6 hours

The tourniquet should only be removed if a trained physician decides that the benefit outweighs the risk.

>= 6 hours

Do not remove the tourniquet. Amputation of the limb will probably be necessary.


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