Medical Devices

Bed Rail Safety

Bed rails are used by many people to help create a supportive and assistive sleeping environment in homes, assisted living facilities and residential care facilities. This type of equipment has many commonly used names, including side rails, bed side rails, half rails, safety rails, bed handles, assist bars, or grab bars, hospital bed rails, and adult portable bed rails.

Many portable bed rail products can be purchased by consumers on websites and in stores without a prescription and without the recommendation of a health care provider. Other types of bed rails are considered medical devices and subject to FDA oversight.

Many death and injury reports related to entrapment and falls for both adult portable bed rail products and hospital bed rails have been reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All bed rails should be used with caution, especially with older adults and people with altered mental status, physical limitations and certain medical conditions.

This web page contains information about the risks and safe use of these products, alternatives to bed rails and how to report a problem with a bed rail product to CPSC or a bed rail medical device to FDA.

What are the different types of bed rails?

Example of an adult portable bed rail.

Example of an adult portable bed rail.


Example of a bed handle or grab bar.

Example of a bed handle or grab bar.

There is no standard definition for bed rails, but they typically are divided into three distinct types: Portable bed rails for adults, portable bedrails used for children, and hospital bed rails that are attached to a hospital or medical bed.

The term “adult bed rail(s)” on this web page refers to all types and styles of adult portable bed rails; it does not include rails manufactured for specific medical and hospital beds or bed rails used for children ages 2-5.

Adult Portable Bed Rails: A portable bed rail is any bed rail product or device that is attachable and removable from a bed, not designed as part of the bed by the manufacturer, and is installed on or used along the side of a bed. These rails are used on beds intended for consumers and are intended to 1) reduce the risk of falling from the bed, 2) assist the consumer in repositioning in the bed, or 3) assist the consumer in transitioning into or out of the bed.

Portable bed rails for adults are used in many different settings, including the home, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. They are available in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes; some bed rails run along the full length of the bed, while others run a half, quarter or even shorter lengths of the bed.

Portable Bed Rails for Children: Portable bed rails are intended for children (typically from 2 to 5 years of age) who can get in and out of an adult bed unassisted. For more information about these products, please visit the CPSC website.

Hospital Bed Rails: These bed rails are intended to be either part of or an accessory to a hospital bed or other FDA-regulated bed. They are considered medical devices. For more information on hospital bed safety, please visit the FDA Hospital Bed website.

Page Last Updated: 11/03/2014
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