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Hair tourniquet and other narrow constricting bands: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment

Eric Hoppa, MD
Section Editor
Anne M Stack, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


This topic discusses the clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management of hair tourniquets and also strangulation of digits or external genitalia by thread or other narrow constricting bands.


Hair tourniquet or hair-thread tourniquet syndrome describes swelling or ischemia of an appendage (eg, toe, finger, or genitalia) caused by a tightly wound hair or thread in a young infant, although it may rarely occur in older patients [1]. (See 'Etiology' below and 'Epidemiology' below.)

For this topic, the discussion of hair tourniquets has been expanded to include intentionally applied tourniquets that may consist of materials other than hair or thread.


Narrow constriction of the digit or external genitalia decreases lymphatic and venous drainage, which results in pain, swelling, and edema. If not recognized in a timely fashion, ischemia occurs. With progressive swelling, the constricting agent may become embedded in the soft tissue or cut through the skin and underlying tissues. If not promptly removed, then permanent tissue necrosis can develop.


The source of the tourniquet varies by the site of constriction:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 07, 2017.
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