Adult Portable Bed Rail Safety
Adult portable 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, bed canes, assist bars, grab bars, and adult portable bed rails.
Many adult portable bed rails can be purchased by consumers on websites and in stores without a prescription and without the recommendation of a health care provider. Adult portable bed rails marketed for medical purposes such as those intended to assist individuals who are disabled, injured, or recovering from surgery or hospitalized with transfer in and out of bed or repositioning, intended to reduce risk of falling or fracture or mitigate the risk of falling due to the effects of balance disorders or other medical conditions are considered medical devices regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (see 21 CFR 890.5050 Daily activity assist device, product code, QTC Adult Portable Bed Rails for Medical Purposes). Other adult portable bed rails that are not intended for medical purposes are considered consumer products and under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Many death and injury reports related to entrapment and falls for adult portable bed rail products and hospital bed rails have been reported to the FDA and the CPSC. All bed rails should be used with caution, especially with older adults and people with altered mental status, physical limitations, and certain medical conditions (for example, patients who are disabled, injured, or those post-surgery or hospitalized).
This webpage contains information about the risks of adult portable bed rails, recommendations for their safe use, alternatives to bed rails, and how to report a problem with medical devices to the FDA or consumer products to CPSC.
What are the different types of adult portable bed rails?
Example of a half-length adult portable bed rail
Example of a bed handle or grab bar adult portable bed rail.
Bed rails typically are divided into three distinct types: portable bed rails for adults, portable bed rails used for children, and hospital bed rails that are attached to a hospital or medical bed.
Adult Portable Bed Rails: An adult portable bed rail is a 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 intended to provide assistance to the bed occupant in moving on the bed surface, or in entering or exiting the bed, to minimize the possibility of falling out of bed or for other similar purposes. Adult portable bed rails intended to assist individuals who are disabled, injured, or recovering from surgery or hospitalized with transfer in and out of bed or repositioning, intended to reduce risk of falling or fracture or mitigate the risk of falling due to the effects of balance disorders or other medical conditions are regulated as medical devices.
Adult portable bed rails 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.
Other Types of Bed Rails
Portable Bed Rails for Children: Portable bed rails intended for children (typically from 2 to 5 years of age) who can get in and out of an adult bed unassisted are considered consumer products. For more information, please see Portable Bed Rails | CPSC.gov.
Hospital Bed Rails: Hospital 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, see A Guide to Bed Safety Bed Rails in Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Home Health Care: The Facts.
- FDA: Hospital Beds
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Older Adult Fall Prevention
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) STEADI—Older Adult Fall Prevention
- Consumer Product Safety Commission: Older Adults
- Consumer Product Safety Commission: Safety Standard for Adult Portable Bed Rails