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Increases in Wheelchair Breakdowns, Repairs, and Adverse Consequences for People with Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

Worobey, Lynn BS; Oyster, Michelle MS; Nemunaitis, Gregory MD; Cooper, Rory PhD; Boninger, Michael L. MD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: June 2012 - Volume 91 - Issue 6 - p 463–469
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e31825ab5ec
Original Research Articles

Objective: The aims of this study were to report the current incidence of wheelchair breakdowns, repairs, and consequences and to compare current data with historical data.

Design: A convenience sample survey of 723 participants with spinal cord injury who use a wheelchair for more than 40 hrs/wk treated at a Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems center was conducted.

Results: Significant increases were found in the number of participants reporting repairs (7.8%) and adverse consequences (23.5%) in a 6-mo period (2006–2011) compared with historical data (2004–2006) (P < 0.001). When examining current data, minorities experienced a greater frequency and higher number of reported consequences (P = 0.03). Power wheelchair users reported a higher number of repairs and consequences than did manual wheelchair users (P < 0.001). Wheelchairs equipped with seat functions were associated with a greater frequency of adverse consequences (P = 0.01). Repairs did not vary across funding source, but individuals with wheelchairs provided by Medicare and Medicaid reported a higher frequency of consequences than did the combined group of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Worker’s Compensation, and the Veterans Administration (P = 0.034 and P = 0.013, respectively).

Conclusions: The incidence and consequences of repairs are increasing from what was already a very high statistic in this United States population. Further investigation into causality is required, and intervention is needed to reverse this potential trend.

From the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (LW, MO, RC, MLB), Department of Bioengineering (LW, RC, MLB), Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology (RC, MLB), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Department of Veterans Affairs (RC, MLB) Human Engineering Research Laboratories, Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (GN), MetroHealth System, Cleveland OH.

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to: Michael Boninger, MD, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh, 3471 5th Avenue, Suite 201, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article. This material is the result of work supported by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, United States Department of Education (grant H133N060019), and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The contents of this article do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

Editor’s note: This manuscript is published as a Rapid Communication, received on March 7, 2012, and accepted for publication after minor revisions on April 3, 2012.

Copyright © 2012 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.