-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- An increasing number of
wheelchair breakdowns are causing people with spinal cord injuries
to be left stranded, hurt or unable to keep their medical
appointments, according to a new study.
In the report, published online in the
American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh researchers suggested that changes in Medicare reimbursements may be contributing to this growing problem.
The researchers found that more than half of wheelchair users
had a breakdown within six months. A growing number of these
breakdowns resulted in injuries and other health and safety
In conducting the research, Dr. Michael Boninger, of the
University of Pittsburgh's physical medicine and rehabilitation
department, and colleagues examined an ongoing survey study of more
than 700 people with spinal cord injury who were confined to a
wheelchair for a minimum of 40 hours each week. The participants
provided information on the wheelchair problems they experienced
and what happened as a result of their breakdowns.
The study revealed that the rate of wheelchair breakdowns surged
between 2006 and 2011. During this time, roughly 53 percent of
wheelchair users reported at least one breakdown requiring repairs
within six months -- up from 45 percent between 2004 and 2006. The
average number of repairs per person also surged from 1.03 in
2004-2006 to 1.42 in 2006-2011.
"It is possible that this increase in the number of repairs is the result of a decrease in wheelchair quality resulting from changes in reimbursement policies and a lack of enforcement of standards testing," the study authors noted in a journal news release.
The researchers also found the rate of adverse consequences of
breakdowns jumped to 30.5 percent in 2006-2011 from 22 percent in
2004-2006. The total number of consequences per wheelchair user was
also twice as high.
Power wheelchairs, particularly those with power seats, were
more problematic than manual models, accounting for almost
two-thirds of all problems reported by users.
Racial and ethnic minorities reported a greater number of
breakdowns. The study authors pointed out that these patients were
also less likely to have a backup wheelchair available to them.
Moreover, the study showed wheelchairs paid for by Medicare or
Medicaid had higher rates of breakdowns and resulting problems than
those covered by private insurance or other sources, including the
The study warned that lenient requirements for testing do not
ensure that wheelchairs meet certain safety or performance
"This paper should serve as a call to reevaluate and revise current policies and standards testing for wheelchair prescription in the United States," said Boninger's team. The researchers added that informing wheelchair users about the importance of routine wheelchair maintenance could help reduce breakdowns and avoid injuries.
The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services has more
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.