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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016 Nov;64(11):2307-2310. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14435. Epub 2016 Sep 19.

Physical Restraints: Consensus of a Research Definition Using a Modified Delphi Technique.

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Department of Health Services Research, School for Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Department of Community Health Systems, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, California.
Hunter College, City University of New York, New York, New York.



To develop an internationally accepted research definition of physical restraint.


Comprehensive literature search followed by a web-based, three-round, modified Delphi technique comprising reviews and feedback.


Clinical care settings.


An international group of 48 experts consisting of researchers and clinicians from 14 countries who have made sustained contribution to research and clinical application in the field of physical restraint in clinical care.


Data were collected using an online survey program and one in-person meeting. Results of the online survey and the in-person meeting were used for distribution in subsequent rounds until consensus on a definition was reached. Consensus was defined as 90% of the participating experts agreeing with the proposed definition of physical restraint.


Thirty-four different definitions were identified during the literature search and served as a starting point for the modified Delphi technique. After three rounds, 45 (95.7%) of 47 remaining experts agreed with the newly proposed definition: "Physical restraint is defined as any action or procedure that prevents a person's free body movement to a position of choice and/or normal access to his/her body by the use of any method, attached or adjacent to a person's body that he/she cannot control or remove easily."


A multidisciplinary, internationally representative panel of experts reached consensus on a research definition for physical restraints in older persons. This is a necessary step toward improved comparisons of the prevalence of physical restraint use across studies and countries. This definition can further guide research interventions aimed at reducing use of physical restraints.


Delphi technique; definition; physical restraint

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