Bed rails, used mostly in hospitals and nursing homes, have been linked to the deaths of over 100 older adults in the past decade.
Due to this large number, the Food and Drug Administration, along with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has begun an investigation into the safety of bed rails.
According to the consumer agency, from 2003 to May 2012 there have been 150 deaths of mostly older adults due to bed rails. Over the same period, 36,000 older adults were treated in emergency rooms with bed rail injuries. Since 1995, the death toll is estimated at 550.
Bed rails are most commonly used to assist patients in nursing homes or hospitals out of bed, or prevent them from rolling out of bed. However, patients can get trapped between the bed rail and the mattress leading to serious injury or death.
However, this is not a new issue. In 1995, the FDA issued safety warnings about bed rails, but failed to require manufacturers to pit safety labels on them. Experts believe more warnings are needed.
Currently, the FDA has a guide on its website regarding bed rail safety. The risks associated with bed rails include:
â¢Â· Suffocation, strangling, bodily injury or death when trapped between mattress and bed rail
â¢Â· Serious injuries from fall when patients try to climb over bed rails
â¢Â· Skin bruising
â¢Â· Feeling isolated or unnecessarily restricted
To limit these risks, the FDA recommends that patients be monitored frequently, a mat be placed on the floor next to the bed in case patient falls from bed and keeping the bed in the lowest position. The FDA also recommends reducing the gap between the rail and the mattress to prevent entrapment. Families are also encouraged to assess the need for bed rails.
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Source: The New York Times, "After Dozens of Deaths, Inquiry Into Bed Rails," Nov. 25, 2012.