Restraint Information

UPMC is committed to achieving the highest level of care for our patients and their families. We believe that our patients have the right to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect, and that it is our responsibility to provide for the safety of our patients at all times.

At times, it may be necessary for hospital staff to take measures to protect a patient when he or she becomes a threat to his or her safety or the safety of others. These measures may include the use of restraints. The following information is designed to answer your questions about restraints, including why and when they are used.

What is a restraint?

A restraint is any protective device that prevents or hinders movement of some part of the body.

Examples of restraints are:

  • Hand mitts
  • Soft wrist or ankle straps
  • Vests
  • Leather wrist or ankle straps
  • Geriatric or “geri” chair (a type of chair on wheels, with a tray that can be closed over a patient’s lap to confine him or her)

Why are restraints used?

Restraints are used to keep patients and others safe and free from injury or harm.

Restraints may be needed to:

  • Allow needed treatment to be administered, such as intravenous (IV) therapy, artificial ventilation, tube feedings, etc.
  • Prevent falls
  • Prevent pulling of tubes, monitors, and dressings
  • Prevent injury to the patient or others
  • Prevent wandering

When are restraints used?

Restraints are used when there is concern that a patient’s actions may cause harm to him or herself or to others.

Are there alternatives to restraints?

Sometimes, patients become confused as a result of medications and other factors. Before using restraints to protect a patient from harm, less restrictive measures are used. The following actions are often taken to help orient patients and avoid the use of restraints:

  • Frequently reminding the patient of his or her surroundings (including time and
  • Moving the patient closer to nurses and/or observing or greeting the patient more
  • Using a bed alarm device to alert staff when a patient is out of bed or wandering
  • Encouraging family members to remain with the patient
  • Providing adequate lighting in the patient’s room to help him or her avoid becoming confused at night
  • Communicating clearly and simply
  • Encouraging the patient to use his or her glasses, hearing aids, and/or dentures
  • Offering activities appropriate to the patient’s age and interests as a diversion

How will my loved one be cared for in restraints?

Restraints are used with high regard for the patient’s dignity, well-being, and safety. If the staff applies restraints in the care of the patient, it is after:

  • Other alternatives have already been tried
  • The patient’s doctor has ordered the restraint

When restraints are used, the following additional measures are taken:

  • The patient will be frequently monitored.
  • The patient’s basic needs (food, toileting, water) will be met according to his or her individual routine.
  • Restraints will be released periodically, so the patient can get exercise.
  • Restraints will be discontinued when the reason for their use is resolved.

Remember that restraints are reminders for patients to remain in bed and not pull at tubes
and dressings. Do not tamper with restraints  or side rails that are in use. If a restraint needs
to be adjusted, call the nurse.


If you have any questions or concerns about why restraints are being used, or if you have suggestions about how we can further ensure the safety of your loved one, please talk to your doctor or nurse. You may use the space below to write questions to discuss with your doctor or nurse.

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For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

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Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

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