Local compression patterns beneath pneumatic tourniquets applied to arms and thighs of human cadavera

Alan R. Hargens*, A. Gavin McClure, Michael J. Skyhar, Richard L. Lieber, David H. Gershuni, Wayne H. Akeson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Distributions of tissue fluid pressure were examined beneath a standard pneumatic tourniquet in six upper extremities and six lower extremities of fresh human cadavera, disarticulated at the shoulder and hip, respectively. A standard 8‐cm‐wide tourniquet cuff was applied at mid‐humerus or mid‐femur position. Tissue fluid pressures were measured by 100‐cm‐long slit catheters inserted parallel to the bone at four tissue depths: (a) subcutaneous, (b) subfascial, (c) mid‐muscle, and (d) adjacent to bone. All arms and thighs were studied at the following cuff pressures: 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 400, and 500 mm Hg. Tissue fluid pressure was always maximal in subcutaneous tissue at mid‐cuff. Transmission of cuff pressures to deeper tissues was significantly less (p < 0.01) in the thighs with a girth of 40–52 cm than in the arms with a girth of 22–23 cm. At the four tissue depths studied, tissue fluid pressures fell steeply in a longitudinal direction near the cuff edge to levels near zero at points 1–2 cm outside each cuff edge. Our results suggest that wider cuffs are required on thighs than on arms to provide a bloodless field during limb surgery and to minimize underlying tissue injury associated with high cuff pressures. Our recommendation for wider tourniquet cuffs than those presently used during orthopaedic surgery is contrary to recent prevailing knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-252
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1987


  • Limb surgery
  • Pneumatic tourniquet
  • Tissue fluid pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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