Restrictive interventions in Victorian emergency departments: A study of current clinical practice

Jonathan Knott, Marie Gerdtz, Sheriden Dobson, Catherine Daniel, Andis Graudins, Biswadev Mitra, Bruce Bartley, Pauline Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To determine current clinical practices for managing behavioural emergencies within Victorian public hospital EDs. Methods: A multi-centre retrospective study involving all patients who attended ED in 2016 at the Alfred, Ballarat, Dandenong, Geelong and Royal Melbourne Hospitals. The primary outcome was the rate of patient presentations with at least one restrictive intervention. Secondary outcomes included the rate of security calls for unarmed threats (Code Grey), legal status under the Mental Health Act at both the time of ED arrival and the restrictive intervention, and intervention details. For each site, data on 100 patients who had a restrictive intervention were randomly extracted for indication and methods of restraint. Results: In 2016, 327 454 patients presented to the five EDs; the Code Grey rate was 1.49% (95% CI 1.45–1.54). Within the Code Grey population, 942 had at least one restrictive intervention (24.3%, 95% CI 23.0–25.7). Details were extracted on 494 patients. The majority (62.8%, 95% CI 58.4–67.1) were restrained under a Duty of Care. Physical restraint was used for 165 (33.4%, 95% CI 29.3–37.8) patients, 296 were mechanically restrained (59.9%, 95% CI 55.4–64.3), median mechanical restraint time 180 min (IQR 75–360), and 388 chemically restrained (78.5%, 95% CI 74.6–82.0). Conclusions: Restrictive interventions in the ED largely occurred under a Duty of Care. Care of patients managed under legislation that covers assessment and treatment of mental illness has a strong clinical governance framework and focus on minimising restrictive interventions. However, this is not applied to the majority of patients who experience restraint in Victorian EDs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-400
Number of pages8
JournalEMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • behavioural emergencies
  • chemical sedation
  • mechanical restraint
  • physical restraint
  • restrictive intervention

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