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Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Year, Volume, Issue, Page(s):

, 103, 4, 779–789


Objective: To investigate the frequency and consequences of wheelchair repairs, looking at the relationship to usage, components, out-of-pocket costs, number of days affecting the user, and factors associated with the need for repairs or consequences.

Design: Survey, cross-sectional.

Setting: Nine spinal cord injury (SCI) Model Systems centers.

Participants: Wheelchair users with SCI (N=533).

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Cost and incidence of wheelchair repairs and consequences and wheelchair usage within the past 6 months.

Results: A total of 310 participants (56%) reported repairs, 127 (42%) of whom experienced at least 1 adverse consequence lasting a median of 5 days (interquartile range [IQR], 2-17.3 days). Repair rates were highest for the seating system, electronics, and tires. Participants were most often stranded at home or forced to use a backup chair. Median out-of-pocket costs were $150 (IQR, $50-$620). Active users, based on type of mobility and terrain, experienced more repairs and consequences than less active users. Repairs were more common among those who were Black (odds ratio [OR], 2.42) or power wheelchair (PWC) users (OR, 1.84), whereas consequences were more common among those who were Black (OR, 2.27), PWC (OR, 2.08) or power assist users (OR, 2.76), and those who had public insurance (OR, 1.70).

Conclusions: Wheelchair repairs continue to affect more than 50% of wheelchair users with significant financial and personal cost. High repair rates limited participation inside and outside of the home. Consequences lasted longer than 2 weeks for many and may be minimized by a working backup chair. Disparities exist based on participant and wheelchair factors; repairs and adverse consequences appear to hit those most vulnerable with the least financial resources. Costs may be a barrier to repair completion for some individuals. This ongoing problem of high repair rates and their associated effects requires action such as higher standards, access to quicker service, and better training of users on wheelchair maintenance and repair.


Lynn A Worobey, Allen W Heinemann, Kim D Anderson, Denise Fyffe, Trevor A Dyson-Hudson, Theresa Berner, Michael L Boninger