Wheelchair Repairs, Breakdown, and Adverse Consequences for People With Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

Laura A. McClure, Michael L. Boninger, Michelle L. Oyster, Steve Williams, Bethlyn Houlihan, Jesse A. Lieberman, Rory A. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


McClure LA, Boninger ML, Oyster ML, Williams S, Houlihan B, Lieberman JA, Cooper RA. Wheelchair repairs, breakdown, and adverse consequences for people with traumatic spinal cord injury. Objectives: To investigate the frequency of repairs that occurred in a 6-month period and the consequences of breakdowns on wheelchair users living with spinal cord injuries (SCIs), and to determine whether certain wheelchair and subject characteristics are associated with an increased number of repairs and adverse consequences. Design: Convenience sample survey. Setting: Sixteen Model Spinal Cord Injury Systems Centers that are part of the national database funded through the Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Participants: People with SCI who use a wheelchair for more than 40h/wk (N=2213). Intervention: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: The frequency of wheelchair repairs and occurrence of adverse consequences caused by a wheelchair breakdown in a 6-month period. Results: Within a 6-month period, 44.8% of full-time wheelchair users completed a repair, and 8.7% had an adverse consequence occur. People who use power wheelchairs required significantly more repairs (P<.001), and adverse consequences occurred more frequently (P<.001) compared with manual wheelchair users. The presence of power seat functions, and a person's occupational status or sex did not influence the number of repairs or adverse consequences. Conclusions: Frequent repairs and breakdown can negatively impact a person's life by decreasing community participation and threatening health and safety. Mandatory compliance with the American National Standards Institute and the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America standards, changes in insurance reimbursement policy, and patient and clinician education are necessary to reduce the number of repairs and adverse consequences that occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2034-2038
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Equipment failure
  • Reference standards
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Wheelchairs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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