How Pressure Dressings Work and Why You Should Have One
Controlling bleeding during a traumatic injury is the primary purpose of a pressure dressing and that’s accomplished through the direct “pressure” these bandages aid in exerting.
Tourniquets can be the fastest and most effective way to stop traumatic bleeding on an extremity, especially when it's hard to determine the severity of the bleeding. When a wound can be properly assessed and determined to not require the use of a tourniquet, or if the bleeding isn’t located on an extremity, using direct pressure is the best method to control bleeding.
Direct pressure exerted on a wound helps to slow or stop the flow of blood, which promotes clotting. Hemostatic agents can help accelerate the body’s natural clotting process, but standard gauze combined with direct pressure can also be a winning combination.
Difficulty can arise with the prolonged direct pressure required to stop the bleeding after you’ve packed a wound, or after you’ve applied gauze topically to help stop the blood flow. It can also be challenging to provide this prolonged pressure if you need your hands free to treat additional injuries.
Enter the Pressure Dressing! By wrapping this type of dressing around the injury and being careful not to cut off circulation, it not only satisfies the direct pressure requirements of a wound, but solves the hands-free issue. We recommend two different pressure dressings, depending on the space you have available and the injuries you might encounter.
For compact spaces, like inside our ETA Trauma Kit, we include and recommend a Mini Compression Bandage. When applying this compact dressing, the elastic tightens as you wrap, applying the intended direct pressure. Once finished, the bandage can be secured both with the hook material on the end, as well as a plastic closure bar.
If space isn’t a concern, we highly recommend the Israeli Compression Emergency Bandages. Available in both 4” and 8” versions, (4” for smaller injuries and 8” for larger abdominal injuries) these contain an integrated pressure applicator bar that can apply 30-40 pounds of pressure on a wound. They also feature a closure bar to secure the bandage once it's applied and can be used to exert additional pressure.
No matter which bandage you choose, it’s important to understand how they operate and to train with them. Being prepared to stop traumatic bleeding and sharing your knowledge with others, helps to create a valuable force-multiplier and increase the chances that someone will be there to provide aid as a first response until emergency medical services arrive.