Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Tourniquet Syndrome nearly cost my baby two of her toes

Gemma and Orla Image copyright Gemma Fraser
Image caption Gemma Fraser with her daughter Orla

An Edinburgh mum has described how her baby nearly lost two toes, after a strand of hair cut off circulation to them.

Gemma Fraser is now warning other parents about the dangers of Tourniquet Syndrome.

A strand of her own hair had bound her daughter's toes together, gradually getting tighter and acting like cheese wire.

Medical experts have said the condition is more common than people think.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Kaye Adams programme, Gemma Fraser told presenter Louise White about the trauma her family went through after her three-month-old daughter became a victim of Tourniquet Syndrome.

A strand of Gemma's hair had somehow encircled two of Orla's toes in June last year, and the mum-of-two only noticed during a nappy change, when the toes had turned purple and were bulging.

Image caption A strand of hair had cut off circulation

The hair was wrapped so tightly that Gemma couldn't remove it herself, so she called an ambulance. A paramedic spent 45 minutes trying to cut the hair away.

Orla was then sent to The Royal Hospital For Sick Children in Edinburgh to be checked further.

After a consultation, the baby was sent home with some antibiotic cream. One of the toes healed over the next few weeks, but one of them did not.

Tourniquet Syndrome

Gemma told Louise: "It was still an open wound, and really swollen, and then pus started coming out of it."

After several more visits to the GP and the hospital, Orla was eventually referred to a plastic surgeon.

"It was still an open wound, you could peel the skin back and see inside her toe. One of the nurses eventually said she thought there was still some hair trapped inside the wound."

Image copyright Gemma Fraser
Image caption Orla is now happy and healthy

The plastic surgeon, who was called to Sick Kids from St Johns Hospital in Livingston, had to operate on Orla without general anaesthetic as she was so young.

He used an anaesthetic wipe instead, and while Gemma held a screaming Orla, the surgeon thoroughly cleaned out the wound.

Gemma said it was 5 weeks between first spotting the problem, and having the surgery to remove the hair.

She said she was shocked at how common the condition can be, and says she wants to let people know about it.

"I was shocked"

"One of the nurses told me about Tourniquet Syndrome, and I was just shocked when I found images of children who haven't been as lucky as Orla, and have had toes amputated."

Gemma said hair can become trapped in socks and babygrows in the washing machine, and is warning parents to check items before dressing their babies.

"When I look back, Orla was definitely out of sorts that weekend. I just wish I'd known to look for this as a possible cause."

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Gemma Fraser, with baby Orla and older daughter Poppy

Speaking on the same programme, midwife Cass McNamara said: "People should be made aware, to check the baby everyday. Hair is incredibly strong and can act like fishing wire. This has led to babies having toes and fingers amputated. It can also affect the penis.

"If your baby is more fractious than usual, give him or her a good once over, to make sure there's nothing wrong. If you can see a hair, and it's easy to get off, take it off, but if it's really tight get to an A&E department as soon as possible.

"It's not just hair. The tourniquet can also be something like a strand from a wool blanket, or a loose piece of thread from socks or a babygrow."