Restraining therapies (physical or pharmacological) are used to promote the safety of both patients and health care workers. Some guidelines recommend nonpharmacological or pharmacological interventions be used before physical restraints in critically ill patients.


To characterize psychotropic drug interventions before and after use of physical restraints in critically ill adults receiving mechanical ventilation.


A single-center, prospective, observational study documenting psychotropic drug use and Sedation-Agitation Scale (SAS) scores in the 2 hours before and the 6 hours after application of physical restraints.


Ninety-three patients were restrained for a median of 21 hours (interquartile range, 9-70 hours). Thirty percent of patients did not receive a psychotropic drug or had a drug stopped or decreased before physical restraints were applied. More patients received a psychotropic drug intervention after use of physical restraints than before (86% vs 56%, P = .001). Administration of opioids was more common after the use of physical restraints (54% vs 20% of patients, P = .001) and accounted for more drug interventions (45% vs 29%, P = .001). Fifty patients had SAS scores from both time periods; 16% remained oversedated, 24% were appropriately sedated, and 16% remained agitated in both time periods. Patients became oversedated (20%), more agitated (10%), less agitated (8%), and less sedated (6%) after restraint use.


Psychotropic drug interventions (mostly using opioids) were more common after use of physical restraints. Some patients may be physically restrained for anticipated treatment interference without consideration of pharmacological options and without documented agitation.

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