Bed Rails

CBS News reported on the dangers of bed rails. As a nursing home attorney, I am aware that the misuse of bed rails and bed handles kill hundreds of vulnerable adults every year.  The side rails or metal bars used on beds to help patients pull themselves up or prevent escape. However, many suffer fatal asphyxiation after their necks became entrapped in bed rails. A horrible way to die.

Between 1985 and 2013, the Food and Drug Administration received reports of 901 incidents of patients caught, trapped, entangled or strangled by hospital bed rails. They included 531 deaths, 151 nonfatal injuries and 220 cases where staff needed to intervene to prevent injuries. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports over 70,000 adults had rail-related injuries from 2003 to 2019. The CPSC report “Adult Portable Bed Rail-Related Deaths, Injuries, and Potential Injuries,” lists the two most common causes of deaths and injuries were rail entrapment and falls.

Dr. Michael Carome is the director of health research at Public Citizen. He believes all bed rails are unsafe.

“They are all unsafe: Whether it’s a bed rail placed on the side of a bed to protect an adult or a child from falling out of the bed, or to help them position themselves, to help get in and out of bed, they are too dangerous. There is no way to design them to make them safe because entrapment can occur.”

Adult bed rails should not be used as a restraint. They are assistive to facilitate mobility in and out of bed or repositioning in bed.