Wheelchair-bound patients suffer from a number of constraining ailments that affect the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and integumentary system. The increased risk of pressure ulcers in wheelchair users can be attributed to the combination of consistent single-point pressure and lack of regional movement for an extended period of time, leading to reduced blood circulation to the lower extremities. Pressure ulcers are especially prevalent in elderly wheelchair-bound patients due to the increased fragility of the skin with age. A study by Stockton and Parker estimated the rate of pressure ulcers in all wheelchair users to be nearly 60% [1] and the 2010 US Census reported that 30.6 million Americans have a major mobility disability that require the assistance of a wheelchair, cane or walker [2].

Products currently on the market claim to either distribute pressure more evenly across the surface or stimulate the region of pressure. The former include gel cushions which ease stress by distributing the pressure load but do not initiate movement, while the latter regularly alternate mechanical cushions that initiate movement but do not target region of highest load. Because many patients are unable to independently identify, communicate, or adjust their bodies when there is excess pressure being placed on a specific area, a method of reducing a patient’s single-point pressure on a seat without requiring direct user input could greatly improve the quality of life of wheelchair users.

This content is only available via PDF.