Restraint use in the acute-care hospital setting: A cross-sectional multi-centre study

S. Thomann*, S. Zwakhalen, D. Richter, S. Bauer, S. Hahn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Restraints are likely to negatively affect patients' health and therefore a reduction in their usage is recommended for all health-care settings. To date, research on restrictive practices has concentrated on mental health and long-term care settings. In the acute-care hospital setting few studies have been published and these studies mainly focus on physical/mechanical restraints in specific subpopulations and/or on intensive care units. However, to ensure restraints are used as little as possible in the acute-care hospital setting, it seems important to investigate more comprehensively the use of restraints, to include all types of restraints irrespective of ward type or subpopulations and to identify factors associated with restraint use.Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate restraint use regardless of ward type in the acutecare hospital setting, including restraint type, reasons for restraint use, process indicators when using restraints and restraint use-associated patient characteristics.Methods: Using a cross-sectional multi-centre design, data were collected by means of an annual international prevalence measurement in acute-care hospitals in Switzerland and Austria. All hospitalised patients aged 18+ who gave informed consent were included. Data were collected at three measurement points between 2016 and 2018. Descriptive and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed.Results: A total of 29,477 patients hospitalised in 140 hospitals were included in this study. The prevalence rate for the use of at least one restraint over a 30-day period was 8.7% (n = 2577), with mechanical restraints representing the highest proportion of restraint type used (55.0%, n = 1417). The main reason for restraint use was fall prevention (43.8%, n = 1129), followed by confusion or delirious behaviour (20.4%, n = 525). In 64.3% of the cases (n = 1657), restraint use was documented in the patient file. Regular evaluation occurred in 42.9% of the cases (n = 1105). Care dependency had the strongest association with restraint use (odds ratio [OR] 25.00, 95% confidence interval [CI] 21.01-29.78 for completely dependant patients in comparison to completely independent patients), followed by mental and behavioural disorders (OR 2.36, 95% CI 2.15-2.59).Conclusions: Restraints are often utilised in hospitals in complex care situations such as with patients at risk of falling or with delirium. When using restraints the consideration of processes like documentation and evaluation shows great potential for improvement. Standardisation of these processes and education of the interprofessional team could be beneficial for raising awareness and for the sustainable reduction of restraint use.Tweetable abstract: In hospitals restraints are often used in complex care situations. However, their use seems to be insufficiently documented and evaluated. (C) 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103807
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • decision-making
  • health-care outcome and process assessment
  • hospitals
  • nurses
  • perceptions
  • physical restraint
  • prevalence
  • reduction
  • restraints
  • risk factors
  • staff
  • Prevalence
  • Health-care outcome and process assessment
  • Risk factors
  • Hospitals
  • Restraints


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