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Using Tourniquets To Treat “An Overabundance of Blood”

Greek medicine was based on Hippocrates’s theory of the four humors, that diseases occurred when a humor became imbalanced in response to environmental factors, such as activity or diet. One of the humors was blood. Accordingly, two treatments emerged to treat an overabundance of blood: bloodletting and the opposite, the use of tourniquets.

In The Deadliest Lie, Miriam gives Judah her opinion on treating his father’s blood-tinged cough:

“Well, bloodletting isn’t the only treatment for too much blood in his chest. Another is to use tourniquets to trap the blood in the extremities, to prevent the blood from flowing into the chest. The tourniquets should be tied—but not too tightly—around each arm near the shoulder and around each leg just below the groin. I’ll take a look to see whether I think he should be treated with tourniquets or bloodletting, and maybe we can relieve his other symptoms, at least temporarily.”

A tourniquet is a device to apply pressure to a limb in order to limit but not stop the flow of blood. During Alexander the Great’s military campaigns in the fourth century BC, tourniquets were used to stanch the bleeding of wounded soldiers. The Romans also used them to control bleeding on the battlefield and during amputations. As the image shows, their tourniquets were narrow straps made of bronze, using only leather for comfort. But the use of tourniquets is modern as well. For example, they probably saved 2,000 American lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2005 and 2011.

In The Deadliest Lie, Miriam risks her life as she ventures into the claustrophobic underbelly of Alexandria. Instead of a tourniquet, you can accompany her with a copy of The Deadliest Lie. Just click here.


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