McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty members Rory Cooper, PhD (pictured left), FISA/PVA Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, and Michael Boninger, MD (pictured right), Chair of the University of Pittsburgh School Medicine’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Director of the UPMC Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, recently published the results of a Pitt-led study which showed nearly half of all individuals with spinal cord injury have to repair their wheelchairs in a 6 month period due to a breakdown. Such breakdowns can negatively impact wheelchair users’ health and quality of life by threatening safety and decreasing community participation. Of those users who reported completing repairs, almost 20 percent experienced one or more adverse consequences, such as being stranded, getting injured, and missing work or important appointments.
“Just imagine the outcry if half of all cars broke down every 6 months,” said Dr. Boninger.
The study describes survey results from people with spinal cord injuries who use their wheelchairs at least 40 hours per week. Out of 2,101 individuals who were able to recall the specific number of repairs completed on their wheelchairs in the previous 6 months, 20.3 percent completed one repair, 16.6 percent completed two to three repairs, and 6.2 percent completed four or more repairs. In addition, 19.7 percent of those who completed at least one repair reported a total of 262 adverse consequences resulting from their wheelchair breakdowns, including 140 reports of being stranded, 47 reports of having to cancel a medical appointment, 42 reports of getting injured, and 33 reports of missing work or school.
“Many wheelchair malfunctions can be avoided by reforming health insurance reimbursement policies, mandating compliance with national wheelchair standards, and improving patient and clinician education,” added Dr. Boninger.
Dr. Cooper is also Center Director at the Center of Excellence for Wheelchair and Related Technology, VA Rehabilitation Research & Development Center, and a Senior Research Career Scientist at the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Service, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations News Release (12/15/09)
The Spinal Cord Injury Zone (12/16/09)
University of Pittsburgh School Medicine’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
UPMC Institute for Rehabilitation and Research
Bio: Dr. Rory Cooper
Bio: Dr. Michael Boninger
Abstract (Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2009 Dec;90(12):2034-8)