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Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology

Year, Volume, Issue, Page(s):

, , , 1-7


Purpose: Investigate the type and frequency of wheelchair repairs and resulting adverse consequences in a Veteran population.

Design: Convenience cross-sectional sample survey.

Setting: Data were collected at the 2017 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Participants: Veterans who use a wheelchair ≥ 40 h/wk (n = 60).

Intervention: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Repairs and associated adverse consequences, wheelchair age and usage, type of repairs completed, time elapsed between breakdowns and repairs, and who completed repairs.

Results: 60 participants reported 124 repairs in the previous 6 months with 88.3% of participants requiring at least one repair. Consequences were reported by 43.5% of those experiencing repairs and were most commonly secondary to repairs in the electrical system, wheelchair frame, power/control system, and wheels and casters. Travelling greater distances during the week and on weekends was associated with increased rates of repairs (p = 0.01 and p = 0.02, respectively) and consequences (p = 0.03 and p = 0.03, respectively). Power wheelchairs were more likely to require repairs than manual wheelchairs (p = 0.007). The median time to repair was 7 [0.8,30] days. Vendors completed 82.1% of the repairs. Those experiencing longer repair times were more likely to experience adverse consequences (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: A high number of repairs and resulting adverse consequences occur for wheelchair users, particularly power wheelchair users, in a sample of Veterans. Interventions to prevent breakdowns and to address repairs and adverse consequences in a time-efficient manner are needed. Implications for rehabilitation In a sample of Veterans, a high number of repairs and resulting adverse consequences occur for wheelchair users, particularly power wheelchair users. There is an important clinical opportunity to help wheelchair users avoid repairs in the first place and reduce adverse consequences after breakdowns occur by improving wheelchair quality, providing preventative chair maintenance, and repairing breakdowns in a timely and efficient manner. These interventions may prove impactful in reducing the adverse medical, functional, and social consequences of wheelchair breakdowns.


Geoffrey V. Henderson, MD; Michael L. Boninger, MD; Brad E. Dicianno, MD; and Lynn A. Worobey, PhD, DPT, ATP