Pharmacologic Restraint Use During Mental Health Visits in Pediatric Emergency Departments

Ashley A. Foster*, John J. Porter, Michael C. Monuteaux, Jennifer A. Hoffmann, Joel D. Hudgins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: To evaluate the trends and hospital variation in the use of pharmacologic restraint among pediatric mental health visits in the emergency department (ED). Study design: We examined ED visits with a mental health diagnosis in patients aged 3-21 years at children's hospital EDs from 2009 to 2019. We calculated the frequency of pharmacologic restraint use and determined visit characteristics associated with restraint use. We calculated cumulative percent change for visits with restraints and for all mental health visits. We used logistic regression to test trends over time and evaluate hospital variation in the frequency of restraint use. Results: We identified 389 885 mental health ED visits (54.9% female, median age 14.3 years) and 13 643 (3.5%) visits with pharmacologic restraint use. Characteristics associated with pharmacologic restraint use were late adolescent age (18-21 years), male sex, Black race, non-Latino ethnicity, public insurance, and admission to the hospital (P < .001). During the study period, both mental health ED visits increased by 268% and mental health ED visits with pharmacologic restraint use increased by 370%. The rate of pharmacologic restraint in this patient population remained constant. Hospital use of pharmacologic restraint for mental health visits varied significantly across hospitals (1.6%-11.8%, P < .001). Conclusions: Pediatric mental health ED visits with and without pharmacologic restraint are increasing over time. In addition, the overall number of pharmacologic restraint use has increased threefold. Significant hospital variation in pharmacologic restraint use signifies an opportunity for standardization of care and restraint reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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