FDA urged to act on bed rails safetyNov 26, 2012
Hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries still aren't enough to prompt stronger warnings on the use of and dangers posed by bed rails.
Bed rails are designed to keep patients safe in their beds, namely older patients in assisted-living, nursing home, and hospital settings. These rails extend along a bed. For many patients who are prone to roll out of bed for various reasons, these beds could be a life-saver but for many more people each year, they’ve become a serious health hazard. Patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease or other conditions that could cause them to fall out of bed may benefit from bed rails but some older models could cause more injury than benefit.
If a patient were to fall from bed and slip between the spaced-apart rails on common bed rails, they could become trapped, putting them at risk of suffocation or strangulation. These injuries are more common when people are using beds with older model rails. Most newer models of bed rails are not designed to allow a patient to slip through them.
According to the New York Times, there are about 4,000 injuries each year that require emergency room care that are blamed on bed rails. In the last decade, about 150 people have died as a result of being trapped in a bed rail. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received at least 36,000 reports of injuries blamed on bed rails between 2003 and May of this year.
Most of the injuries are among the elderly, often in hospitals or nursing homes. Despite the rising rate of injuries blamed on bed rails, federal health officials have continually allowed manufacturers to talk them out of requiring safety warning labels to be placed on all bed rails detailing their injury risks.
The source found that the Food and Drug Administration and CPSC have repeatedly balked at issuing warnings or requiring that safety labels be placed on all bed rails that would at least make most consumers aware of the potential dangers. Experts told The Times they believe that many of the injuries and deaths caused by these bed rails could have been avoided with more awareness among both health care professionals and patients.
The FDA did issue a warning about the potential hazards of bed rails in 1995 but only issued voluntary guidelines for their use instead of requiring a warning label in 2006. Again, as the injury and death reports continue to accumulate, both federal agencies are being bucked to require that safety labels be placed on these ubiquitous devices.
Newer model bed rails aimed to prevent many of these injuries and some health care facilities have made their employees aware of these potential dangers have reduced the rate of injuries blamed on bed rails since 1995, but many facilities and home health patients still rely on older model rails.