Original Research

Use of physical restraint in hospital patients: A descriptive study in a tertiary hospital in South Africa

Sebastiana Z. Kalula, Sabela G. Petros
Curationis | Vol 39, No 1 | a1605 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v39i1.1605 | © 2016 Sebastiana Z. Kalula, Sabela G. Petros | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 September 2015 | Published: 10 November 2016

About the author(s)

Sebastiana Z. Kalula, Division of Geriatric Medicine, The Albertina and Walter Sisulu Institute of Ageing in Africa, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Sabela G. Petros, Department of Medicine, The Albertina and Walter Sisulu Institute of Ageing in Africa, University of Cape Town, South Africa and Provincial Department of Health, Western Cape Province, South Africa, South Africa

Share this article

Bookmark and Share


Background: The use of physical restraint in patient management is a common and emotive issue, and has legal and ethical dimensions.
Objective: To document the prevalence of physical restraint use, patient characteristics associated with physical restraint use, and nurses’ and doctors’ knowledge and perceptions towards the practice.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of 572 patients, of whom 132 were physically restrained, was conducted in acute wards of a tertiary hospital. Data were collected on the 132 physically restrained patients. Fifty-nine doctors and 159 nurses completed a specially constructed questionnaire. Descriptive statistics were derived and expressed as numbers and percentages.
Results: Prevalence of restraint use was 23% (132/572). The distribution in acute wards was: medical 54.5%; surgical 44.7%; maternity 0.8%; psychiatry none. Mean age (SD) of the restrained patients was 49 years (20.5); 53.8% were male. The commonest types of restraints used were bed rails 93% and wrist belts 12%. Restraints were used largely to protect medical devices and as protection from harm. Less than 15% of the nurses reported having received training and 36% of the doctors reported having received some guidance on the use of restraints. Only a minority of nurses and doctors knew of a hospital policy on restraint use. Documentation on the prescription and indication for the use of restraint was poor.
Conclusion: Prevalence of restraint use is high and poorly coordinated. A policy on the use of restraint and comprehensive guidelines should be developed to guide health care practitioners in the management of patients where restraint cannot be avoided.


Physical restraint; Complications; Acute care; Health care professionals


Total abstract views: 2882
Total article views: 8187


Crossref Citations

1. The effect of educational intervention on nurses' knowledge, attitude, intention, practice and incidence rate of physical restraint use
Fatemeh Eskandari, Khatijah Lim Abdullah, Nor Zuraida Zainal, Li Ping Wong
Nurse Education in Practice  vol: 32  first page: 52  year: 2018  
doi: 10.1016/j.nepr.2018.07.007