Cuff Links and Hijinks

Any decent EMT can take the austere equipment he’s got and use it to craft all manner of weird and wonderful solutions for the challenges of prehospital medicine. Of course, doing this means understanding the tools you’ve got and all of their powers. Here are a few ideas for using the ubiquitous blood pressure cuff or sphygmomanometer. (We’ve mentioned many of these in passing before, but it’s nice to see them in living color.)


Calibrating the gauge

How to use a pair of pliers to zero the needle on a mis-calibrated dial.


Measuring airway pressure, tourniquets, and cushions

Three handy tricks: first, a method of repurposing common items to create a BVM that provides real-time measurement of the pressure created during positive-pressure ventilation (a very handy teaching tool). Second, using the BP cuff as a tourniquet. Third, using it as an air pillow to fill voids during spinal immobilization.


Do you have a trick for the blood pressure cuff we haven’t mentioned? Let’s hear it!


  1. In a service/system that uses I/O, the blood pressure cuff can substitute for the pressure infusion bags in a pinch.

  2. I don’t have any additional tricks – yours were great! Thanks for sharing how to use a pair of pliers on a mis-calibrated dial…thanks.

  3. Thanks for the trick on how to use a plier for calibrating the gauge – good stuff!

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