Trick of the Trade:
Tourniquet-wrap the entire finger
The basis of all techniques for ring removal involves reducing the edema distally in the finger. Tightly wrap the finger in a distal-to-proximal direction using a rubber tourniquet, typically used for phlebotomy. In fact, wrap over the ring itself as well. With a cooperative patient, have him/her hold the proximal end taut for 15 minutes. This may require a digital block for pain control. Keep the hand elevated.
After 15 minutes, unwrap the tourniquet, apply generous lubricant on the finger, and remove the ring in a twisting or rocking fashion. You can repeat the tourniquet wrapping if you are unsuccessful the first time.
Thanks to Dr. Patricio Chavez (emergency physician at Sutter Delta in Antioch, CA) for this trick, who tells me that he "can't remember the last time he had to cut a ring off" since using this typically successful technique.