Patient injury and physical restraint devices: a systematic review


David Evans,
Department of Clinical Nursing,
University of Adelaide,
South Australia,
Australia 5005.


Objective.  To investigate physical restraint-related injuries. Areas of interest were the prevalence of injury, types of injuries, risk of sustaining an injury and specific restraint devices associated with injury.

Definitions.  Injury in the context of this review was considered to be either direct injury, such as lacerations and strangulation, or indirect injury considered to be an adverse outcome such as increased mortality rates or duration of hospitalization.

Method.  A comprehensive search was undertaken that involved all major databases and the reference list of all relevant papers. To be included in the review studies had to involve people in acute or residential care settings and report data related to injury caused by restraint devices. A number of different types of research designs were included in the review. The findings of studies were pooled using odds ratio and narrative discussion.

Results.  The search identified 11 papers reporting the findings of 12 observational studies. These studies were supplemented with the findings of a number of other types of studies that reported restraint-related data. The review highlights the potential danger of using physical restraint in acute and residential health care facilities. Observational studies suggest that physical restraint may increase the risk of death, falls, serious injury and increased duration of hospitalization. However, there is little information to enable the magnitude of the problem to be determined.

Discussion.  Many of the findings highlight the urgent need for further investigation into the use of physical restraint in health care facilities. Further research should investigate the magnitude of the problem and specific restraint devices associated with injury. However, given the limited nature of the evidence, this association should be investigated further using rigorous research methods.