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Satisfaction with technological equipment in individuals with tetraplegia following spinal cord injury

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OBJECTIVE: To measure the acquisition, use and satisfaction with high technology equipment by spinal cord injured tetraplegic subjects. DESIGN AND SETTING: A questionnaire was mailed to 102 tetraplegic subjects who were hospitalised in the rehabilitation center of Kerpape (Ploemeur, France) between 1998 and 2004, and 59 subjects responded. The questionnaire asked about the use of telephones, computers, wheelchairs and environmental controls at home.

RESULTS: When a piece of equipment was acquired, it was very often used. Patient satisfaction with equipment was 79.3%. Home phones and mobile phones were often used with options such as hands-free devices (78 and 59% respectively). A total of 64.4% of subjects acquired a manual wheelchair and 61% a power wheelchair. The most commonly acquired options on the power wheelchairs were the powered recline (73,7%) and tilt (71,1%) systems. All options were used but all were more desired than acquired. A total of 27.1% of subjects desired a pushrim-activated power wheelchairs, but only 15.3% had acquired one; 695% of subjects had a computer. Communication was the first use for the computer (82.5%); 49.2% of subjects had acquired an environmental control system, but 20% desired one. The first reason for lack of acquisition was financial difficulties but also accessibility and information problems. The factor that influenced the acquisition and need for equipment was the degree of spinal cord injury. No other factor reduced patient satisfaction with equipment.

CONCLUSION: Patients were satisfied with the equipment they acquired. But their needs, especially wheelchair options and environmental control systems, were not satisfied.

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