Physical Restraints in critical care

01 Mar 2021

The Intensive Care Society’s guidance for the Use of Physical Restraints in UK Adult Intensive Care Units seeks to advise intensive care professionals in the use of physical restraints, and to safeguard patients, staff and visitors from acts that may cause harm.

This document recommends that restraints should only be used in situations where all other simple interventions have failed, and that the least restrictive, and most proportionate, response should be chosen and utilised for the shortest period of time possible. 

Our guidance only addresses the use of physical restraints in relation to ICU patients, primarily those exhibiting signs of delirium, in order to keep them safe. It does not address any other area of treatment or potential use of restraints.

The physical restraints referred to in this document are any manually applied method that immobilises a person or reduces their ability to move any part of their body.

While this guidance makes mention of chemical restraints, it does not seek to address their use, except when they are applied in conjunction with physical restraints.

Full definitions of relevant terms, such as delirium, can be found on page five of the guidance document.


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