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J Forensic Sci. 2013 Jan;58(1):259-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2012.02290.x. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Physical restraint and near death of a psychiatric patient.

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Division of General Psychiatry, University Hospital of North Norway, N-9291, Tromsø, Norway.


Physical restraint is used as a last resort emergency measure to calm and safeguard agitated and/or aggressive psychiatric patients. This can sometimes cause injuries, and rare fatalities have occurred. One mechanism of injury and death while in physical restraint is that of severe asphyxiation. We present the case of a hospitalized man in his mid-30s, suffering from schizophrenia. The patient was obese. He became aggressive and had to be manually restrained with a "takedown." After having been put in the prone position on the floor with a significant weight load on his body, he lost respiration and consciousness. Subsequently, he was given CPR. He regained consciousness and respiration, while the cyanosis receded in 1-2 min. Psychiatrists and pathologists should be aware that physically restraining a patient in the prone position with a significant weight load on the torso can, in rare cases, lead to asphyxiation.

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