Physical Restraints: Consensus of a Research Definition Using a Modified Delphi Technique

Michel H. C. Bleijlevens*, Laura M. Wagner, Elizabeth Capezuti, Jan P. H. Hamers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives To develop an internationally accepted research definition of physical restraint. DesignComprehensive literature search followed by a web-based, three-round, modified Delphi technique comprising reviews and feedback. SettingClinical care settings. ParticipantsAn international group of 48 experts consisting of researchers and clinicians from 14 countries who have made sustained contribution to research and clinical application in the field of physical restraint in clinical care. MeasurementsData were collected using an online survey program and one in-person meeting. Results of the online survey and the in-person meeting were used for distribution in subsequent rounds until consensus on a definition was reached. Consensus was defined as 90% of the participating experts agreeing with the proposed definition of physical restraint. ResultsThirty-four different definitions were identified during the literature search and served as a starting point for the modified Delphi technique. After three rounds, 45 (95.7%) of 47 remaining experts agreed with the newly proposed definition: Physical restraint is defined as any action or procedure that prevents a person's free body movement to a position of choice and/or normal access to his/her body by the use of any method, attached or adjacent to a person's body that he/she cannot control or remove easily. ConclusionA multidisciplinary, internationally representative panel of experts reached consensus on a research definition for physical restraints in older persons. This is a necessary step toward improved comparisons of the prevalence of physical restraint use across studies and countries. This definition can further guide research interventions aimed at reducing use of physical restraints.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2307-2310
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • definition
  • physical restraint
  • Delphi technique


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