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Hospital bed risk of Entrapment, Strangulation & Death

Hospital bed entrapment, strangulation, and death are serious concerns, particularly for vulnerable individuals, such as patients with limited mobility or cognitive impairments. The design and use of hospital beds aim to provide a safe environment for patients, but there have been instances of accidents leading to injury or even fatalities. Here are some common risks associated with hospital beds:

  1. Entrapment:
    • Entrapment occurs when a patient’s body or body part becomes caught in the open spaces within or around the bed, such as between the mattress and the siderail, between the siderails, or between the head or footboard and the mattress.
    • The risk of entrapment is higher for patients who are frail, have mobility issues, or have cognitive impairments.
  2. Strangulation:
    • Strangulation can occur when patients become entangled in bed rails, bed linens, or other items in the patient environment.
    • Bed rails are intended to assist patients with repositioning and provide support, but misuse or inadequate assessment of patient needs can lead to unintended risks.
  3. Death:
    • In extreme cases, entrapment or strangulation can lead to serious injury or death.
    • Patients who are unable to reposition themselves independently or communicate their discomfort are at a higher risk.

To address these risks, healthcare facilities and manufacturers take various measures:

  • Regulations and Standards:
    • Regulatory bodies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), set standards and guidelines for the design and use of hospital beds to minimize risks.
    • Standards like IEC 60601-2-52 provide specific requirements for medical beds.
  • Assessment and Monitoring:
    • Healthcare providers are trained to assess patient needs and select appropriate beds and accessories.
    • Regular monitoring and reassessment of patients’ conditions help prevent accidents.
  • Patient Education:
    • Educating patients and their caregivers about the proper use of hospital beds, including the risks of entrapment and strangulation, is crucial.
  • Product Design Improvements:
    • Manufacturers continuously work to improve the design of hospital beds and accessories to enhance safety features and reduce the risk of accidents.

Healthcare professionals and caregivers play a vital role in ensuring patient safety

Healthcare professionals and caregivers play a vital role in ensuring patient safety by following guidelines, assessing risks, and implementing preventive measures. If you have concerns about a specific hospital bed or if you’re a caregiver, it’s important to communicate with healthcare providers and follow their recommendations for safe bed use.

Hospital beds, like any medical equipment, are designed with safety in mind to minimize risks to patients. However, incidents of entrapment, strangulation, and death associated with hospital beds have been reported, prompting ongoing efforts to improve safety standards.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory bodies have issued guidelines and regulations to address these concerns. Hospital beds are now designed and manufactured with features to reduce the risk of entrapment. These features include spacing requirements for bed rails, mattress support surfaces, and gaps to prevent unintended patient entrapment.

Assess their compliance with safety standards

There are also standardized tests and evaluations conducted on hospital beds to assess their compliance with safety standards. Healthcare facilities are encouraged to follow proper protocols and guidelines for bed use, regularly inspect equipment, and train staff to recognize and address potential safety issues.

potential risks associated with hospital beds

It’s essential for healthcare providers, caregivers, and patients to be aware of the potential risks associated with hospital beds and to follow recommended safety guidelines. If you have concerns about the safety of a hospital bed or encounter any issues, it is crucial to report them to the healthcare facility’s staff or relevant regulatory authorities. Regular monitoring, maintenance, and adherence to safety protocols can help mitigate the risks associated with hospital beds and ensure the well-being of patients.

We get inquiries about hospital, nursing home or home health care patients who die or suffer serious injuries due to being entrapped in a gap between the mattress and guard rail in a hospital bed.

If you have ever spent night after night in a hospital room keeping vigil with a heavily sedated family member, as I have too often and too recently, you can imagine how mismanagement of the hospital bed could pose that danger.

Hippocratic Oath from days of ancient Greece admonishes physicians

The Hippocratic Oath from days of ancient Greece admonishes physicians, “first do no harm.” That should apply to the hospital or nursing home as well as the doctor. The risk of entrapment and even death due to the positioning of hospital bed rails has been well known for a long time. Data on this has been publicly available since 1985.  The Food and Drug Administration first issued a warning to home health agencies, nursing homes and others in 1995.

Generally the defendant in such a case would not be the individual physician or medical practice group. Rather, it would be the equipment supplier, hospital, nursing home or home health agency that supplied and managed use of the hospital bed,  or the manufacturer of the bed.

Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.

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