The use of physical restraint has been linked to delirium in ICU patients and a range of physical and psychological outcomes in non-ICU patients. However, the extent of restraint practice in ICUs is largely unknown. This study was designed to examine physical restraint practices across European ICUs. A prospective point prevalence survey was conducted in adult ICUs across European countries to examine: physical and chemical restraint use during the weekend and weekdays, reasons for physical restraint use, timing of restraint use, type of restraint used and availability of restraint policies. Thirty-four general (adult) ICUs in nine countries participated in the study providing information on 669 patients with details of physical and chemical restraint use in 566 patients. Prevalence of physical restraint use in individual units ranged from 0 to 100% of patients. Thirty-three per cent of patients were physically restrained; those that were restrained were more likely to be ventilated (χ(2)=87.56, p<0.001), sedated (χ(2)34.66, p<0.001), managed in a larger unit (χ(2)=10.741, p=.005) and managed in a unit with a lower daytime nurse:patient ratio (χ(2)=17.17, p=0.001). Larger units were more likely to use commercial wrist restraints and smaller units were more likely to have a restraint policy, although these results did not reach significance. As an initial exploration, this study provides evidence of the range of restraint practice across Units in Europe. Variation in the number of units per country limits generalization of findings. However, further examination is needed to determine whether there is a causal element to these relationships. Attention should be paid to developing evidence based guidelines to underpin restraint practices.
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