▪ Objective: To evaluate the association between mechanical restraint use and the occurrence of injurious falls among persons residing in skilled nursing facilities.
▪ Design: Prospective observational cohort study.
▪ Setting: Twelve skilled nursing facilities in southern Connecticut.
▪ Participants: The 397 persons who were mobile and unrestrained at baseline.
▪ Measurements: Restraint use was defined both as the number of days restrained and as "never," "intermittently," or "continually" restrained. The primary outcome measure was the occurrence of a serious fall-related injury. Analyses were done on the entire cohort as well as on a subgroup hypothesized as having a high risk for falls.
▪ Main Results: During one year of follow-up, 122 subjects (31%) became restrained, 83 intermittently and 39 continually. A serious fall-related injury was experienced by 5% (15 of 275) of unrestrained, compared with 17% (21 of 122) of restrained, subjects (chi-square= 12.478; P < 0.001). Restraint use remained independently associated with serious injury after adjusting for other factors, both in the entire cohort (adjusted odds ratio, 10.2; 95% Cl, 2.8 to 36.9) and in the high-risk subgroup (adjusted odds ratio, 6.2; Cl, 1.7 to 22.2). Among the 305 subjects who experienced two or fewer falls, the proportion having a serious injury was 15% for restrained subjects compared with 4% for unrestrained subjects (difference in proportions 11%, Cl, 4% to 17%), whereas the comparable proportions for the 92 subjects who experienced more than two falls were 20% and 16%, respectively. Results were similar in the high-risk subgroup.
▪ Conclusions: Mechanical restraints were associated with continued, and perhaps increased, occurrence of serious fall-related injuries after controlling for other injury risk factors. Study results suggest the need to consider whether restraints provide adequate, if any, protection.