Disparities in the Use of Chemical and Physical Restraints in the Emergency Department by Race/Ethnicity.


North Florida


Osceola Regional Medical Center

Document Type


Publication Date



Chemical and physical restraints, Health disparities, Health equity, Racism


Emergency Medicine | Health and Medical Administration


BACKGROUND: Restraints are often utilized in the emergency department (ED) to prevent patients from injuring themselves or others while managing their agitation in order to deliver appropriate medical care. Chemical and physical restraints are ordered at the discretion of the medical provider and typically employed after reasonable verbal de-escalation has been attempted. While health inequities and racial bias in medicine and healthcare have been well-established, information on the differences in the selection and use of restraints by race and ethnicity are scarce.

METHODS: This retrospective cohort study utilized national data from HCA Healthcare ED and inpatient database with patient visits from 2016 to 2019 to evaluate the relationships between race and ethnicity and the utilization of restraints in the ED. Associations are reported using linear and logistic regression analyses.

RESULTS: The study population included 12,229 unique ED admissions for patients 16 and older with diagnoses of aggression or agitation who had either chemical or physical restraints used. There was no statistically significant difference when comparing Black or other race to White patients and the type of restraint used. Hispanic patients received 0.206 fewer doses of chemical restraints compared to White patients (p = 0.008, 95% C.I. [-0.359, -0.053]) and were slightly less likely to receive physical restraints compared with White patients (p = 0.044, 95% C.I. [0.467, 0.989]), but there was no difference between use of physical restraint and Black or other patients compared to White patients.

CONCLUSIONS: In this national sample of agitated and/or aggressive ED patients who were restrained, Hispanic patients were slightly less likely to receive physical restraints and received fewer doses of chemical restraints than White patients. There were no differences between Black or other patients compared to White patients in restraint type, number of doses of chemical restraint or time to application of either restraint type. This suggests that physicians apply the use of chemical restraints to agitated and aggressive ED patients based on factors that are not associated with race and ethnicity.

Publisher or Conference

Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities