Most people probably consider bed rails a helpful tool to keep vulnerable patients safely in bed. Bed rails, however, also present a number of dangers to patients that can result in serious injury or even death.

Nursing home beds are sometimes equipped with metal bars or bed rails attached to the sides of the patient’s bed. The purpose of the bed rails is to keep nursing home patients, sometimes confused or restless, from rolling or climbing out of bed.

Although the purpose of bed rails is to ensure patient safety, the bed rails have also been responsible for the death of some nursing home residents. Patients can fall while attempting to climb over the rails, or become entrapped between the rails and the mattress, or between the rails themselves. Entrapment can lead to asphyxiation and death.

“Rails decrease your risk of falling by 10 to 15 percent, but they increase the risk of injury by about 20 percent because they change the geometry of the fall,” explained geriatrician Steven Miles from the University of Minnesota. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) has attributed 480 fatalities and over 100 injuries to hospital beds, which doesn’t even include the many injuries that go unreported.

The dangers of bed rails have been known to hospitals, nursing homes and manufacturers for years. In 1995 a warning was issued by the FDA, followed by guidelines to reduce injuries in 2006. Sometimes, however, patients can be victims of nursing home neglect where guidelines are not followed and proper safety measures are not taken.

Although the use of bed rails in nursing homes and hospitals has declined, they are still used frequently. Miles encourages those considering nursing homes to see how often bed rails are used in facilities they are visiting. He encourages people to look elsewhere if more than ten to 20 percent of beds are equipped with rails.

If you or a loved one has been injured by bed rails you may potentially have a claim against the bed manufacturer or nursing home. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your rights and options.

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