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Restraint Use in Adults

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What are restraints?

Restraints are methods used by trained healthcare providers to stop or limit a patient's movement. Restraints may be used without the patient's consent.

Why does the patient need restraints?

Restraints may be needed so healthcare providers can safely provide immediate and necessary care. Healthcare providers will try to calm the patient before they apply restraints. If the patient does not cooperate with healthcare providers, restraints may be needed so they can examine and treat him. A patient who is violent or agitated may need restraints so that he does not harm himself or others. Restraints may also be needed if the patient tries to remove lifesaving equipment, such as IVs or breathing tubes.

What types of restraints may be used?

  • Physical restraints are devices that limit specific parts of the patient's body, such as arms or legs. Belt or vest restraints may be used to stop the patient from getting out of bed or a chair.
  • Chemical restraints are medicines used to quickly sedate a violent patient. These will be given as a pill or an injection.
  • Seclusion is placing the patient in a room by himself. The room is locked and kept free of items that could cause injury. Healthcare providers will watch him at all times when he is in seclusion.

How will healthcare providers monitor the patient while in restraints?

  • Vital signs, such as heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, will be taken often to make sure they are in normal range.
  • The patient's physical comfort will also be monitored closely. Healthcare providers will check the patient's skin for injury or blood flow problems under the restraints. They will also give him liquids and take him to the bathroom as needed.
  • The patient's behavior will also be monitored. Healthcare providers will remove physical restraints or allow the patient to leave seclusion as soon as he is calm and cooperative.

What are the risks of using restraints?

The patient may become more angry or violent while in restraints or seclusion. The patient may struggle against physical restraints. This can cause skin wounds or block blood flow. It can also increase the patient's heart rate and breathing rate. This can be life-threatening.

Chemical restraints can cause low blood pressure, heart rhythm problems, and slow or shallow breathing. This can affect how much oxygen the patient gets. Chemical restraints can also cause drooling, shuffled walk, muscle spasms and stiffness, and tremors.

Care Agreement

A patient has the right to safe care and to be treated with respect. Patients have the right to help plan their care. To help with this plan, patients must learn about their health condition, how it may be treated, and when restraints may be needed. Treatment options should be discussed with healthcare providers. Patients and healthcare providers can work together to decide what care may be best.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.