Measuring seating pressure, area, and asymmetry in persons with spinal cord injury

Authors: Gutierrez-Farewik, E.M., Alm, M., Hultling, C., Saraste, H.
Document Type: Article
Pubstate: Published
Journal: European Spine Journal
Volume: 13   374-9
Year: 2004


The goal of this study was to measure characteristics of seat loading in manual wheelchair users with complete spinal cord injury (SCI). Pressure distribution on the seating area of 25 adult males with SCI and eight non-injured adult males was measured in a relaxed and an upright posture on a standardized hard surface. Subjects with SCI were also tested in their wheelchairs. Maximum pressure, contact area, area of the highest pressure, and three asymmetry indices were compared. Subjects with SCI have higher pressure distributed over a smaller area, have a much smaller contact area, and distribute the loading more asymmetrically than non-injured subjects. Upright posture only corrects for some loading problems, while the wheelchair corrects for more loading parameters. Routine clinical seat loading evaluation may lead to improved chair and cushion selection for patients with SCI and may even alert clinicians to patients at high risk for complications due to high or unbalanced loads.