Intra-operative pneumatic tourniquet - perceptions of use and complications in the orthopaedic community of South Africa

  • A. St Clair Gibson
  • M. I. Lambert
  • J. Milligan
  • W. van der Merwe
  • J. Waiters
  • T. D. Noakes

Abstract

Objectives. To assess views on use, maintenance and side-effects of the pneumatic tourniquet in the South African orthopaedic community.
Methods. A census-type questionnaire study was conducted of all 475 orthopaedic surgeons registered with the Orthopaedic Association of South Africa during 1993/94. The chi-square test was used to detennine statistical significance between different groups of respondents.
Results. Seventy-seven per cent of the questionnaires were returned. Ninety-nine per cent of respondents used a pneumatic tourniquet. Eighty-four per cent believed that the tourniquet may damage underlying tissue both as a result of applied pressure effects and ischaemic consequences. Fifty-four per cent of respondents personally checked the calibration of the pneumatic tourniquet, although 76% of respondents believe that the apparatus needs to be checked at least once per month. More respondents who did not check the tourniquet apparatus than respondents who did check it believe that applied pressure does not cause tissue damage (P < 0.001), that the operating room technician or hospital engineer should be responsible for checking equipment (P < 0.001), and that equipment did not need to be checked more than once every 6 months (P < 0.001).
Conclusions. Although most orthopaedic surgeons are aware of the pneumatic tourniquet's side-effects, a minority appear to be unaware of the hazards of excessive applied pressure alone or excessive applied pressure caused by use of faulty equipment. It needs to be emphasised to these surgeons that regular checking of the pneumatic tourniquet apparatus is necessary in order to prevent postoperative complications ascribed to use of the tourniquet.

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