Adult portable bed rails are sometimes known as bed handles, grab bars and assist bars. They can be used in a number of different settings, including the home, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. They come in a wide variety of styles, shapes and sizes; some run the full length of the bed, while others run a half, quarter or even shorter lengths of the bed.
"Bed rails may provide greater support and mobility when the person using them changes position or gets in and out of bed," says Todd. But the rails also need to be monitored and maintained so they do not loosen over time and create unsafe openings in which a person could become trapped. "Portable bed rails must not be installed and forgotten," Todd notes.
While all hospital beds are regulated by FDA as medical devices, portable rails can either be regulated by FDA as medical devices or by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as consumer products, depending upon their intended use. From January 2003 to September 2012, the CPSC received reports of 155 deaths and five injuries related to portable bed rails designed for adult use.
Robert Howell, CPSC's deputy executive director of safety operations, says that more than 90 percent of the deaths associated with portable bed rails that were reported to CPSC were related to rail entrapment. Most involved people 60 and older.