For individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries, pressure ulcers caused from wheelchair use are a serious concern during rehabilitation and are the most common long-term secondary medical complication for spinal cord injury patients. That’s why a study conducted in 2001 by researchers at the University of Florida Department of Occupational Therapy deserves attention.
The study examines how wheelchair design—and more specifically, wheelchair cushion design—helps to mange and prevent this type of complication. Because almost all wheelchairs are marketed as “the best” for pressure reduction, the researchers wanted to provide useful information to occupational therapists that would help them distinguish between wheelchairs that were actually effective at doing this versus those that were not.
This particular study focused on a single patient, with the hypothesis being that the Roho cushion, as compared to Jay or gel cushions and Pindot or polyurethane foam cushions, would provide the most pressure relief. The researchers used a computer pressure-mapping pad called Xsensor to determine and measure the patient’s pressure points on each of the three different types of cushions during the course of the study. The study concluded that the Roho cushion was in fact the most effective in relieving pressure on the seating surface for the patient who participated in the study, a conclusion that aligns with other research on the same question.
The study is purposefully not empirical. That is, the researchers note from the outset that prescribing an appropriate wheelchair cushion requires an occupational therapist to evaluate each individual separately—there is no “one size fits all” approach to preventing pressure ulcers. Instead, the study offers a methodology for therapists to use in order to prescribe the best cushion for each patient and to monitor its effectiveness over time.
This type of one-on-one treatment and the use of technology to measure pressure points with different cushions could go a long way to helping spinal cord injury patients manage the complications associated with their condition.
Posted by Wayne Parsons