In 2009, 803 incidents of individuals caught, trapped, entangles, or strangled in beds with rails were reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Of these incidents, 480 people died; most of whom were frail, elderly, or confused.
Although state assisted living regulations on the use of bed rails vary, and there can be benefits from there use, information from the FDA shows there are numerous risk related to the use of bed rails, including:
- Strangling, suffocating, bodily injury or death when patients or part of their body are caught between rails or between the bed rails and mattress.
- More serious injuries from falls when patients climb over rails.
- Skin bruising, cuts, and scrapes.
- Inducing agitated behavior when bed rails are used as a restraint.
- Feeling isolated or unnecessarily restricted.
- Preventing patients, who are able to get out of bed, from performing routine activities such as going to the bathroom or retrieving something from a closet.
If bed rails must be used for mobility and repositioning, the FDA suggests the following interventions to reduce risk:
- Perform an on-going assessment of the patient’s physical and mental status; closely monitor high-risk patients.
- Considering lowering one or more sections of the bed rail, such as the foot rail (some state regulations require this).
- Use a proper size mattress or mattress with raised foam edges to prevent patients from being trapped between the mattress and rail.
- Reduce the gaps between the mattress and side rails.