Study proves that cooling backrest cushion transformed the life of client with complex seating needs
In a study presented at the 2019 PMG Conference by wheelAIR and Victoria Curling and Suzanna Shari from NHS Guys & St Thomas Wheelchair Services (Kings College Hospital), they confirmed that over the course of one year, the wheelAIR cooling system dramatically improved a man’s life.
The 52-year-old client in the study has cerebral palsy, a learning disability, asthma and a history of respiratory failure. He also has complex seating needs including pelvic obliquity, scoliosis concave, reduced hip flexion, and posterior rib hump. He has a large abdominal mass.
In addition, the client has extreme difficulty regulating his own body temperature, and tends to scratch his knees and forehead as well as develop redness on his back.
His mum manages this by: changing his t-shirt four times per day, constantly wiping perspiration off his face, using four fans to cool him down, changing in situ slings two times a day and placing a towel behind his back.
Seating and positioning is also challenging as the client requires a close-fitting seating system due to his complex seating needs and impingement issues. His longstanding issues with overheating and perspiration also pose difficulties when manufacturing an intimate seating system.
Victoria Curling explained: “He had tried most if not all of the solutions available. Each solution had its own merits and worked in their own way. The Matrix/Lynx, MSI provided rigid, excellent postural support but was hot and a little too firm for him. We also tried carved foam seating and later carved foam with holes in for air flow. This was more forgiving on his skin but still too hot. Matrix and Lynx allowed for airflow with its open structure but in this case, did not do enough to keep him cool.
“His mum had used up to four desk fans behind and in front of the chair, but the padding that lines the seating didn’t allow for effective ventilation and wasn’t very portable. We also tried a few of the smart materials like bamboo covers, but they did not provide a noticeable enough improvement to make him more comfortable. We had also tried a more careful design of the custom seat, making sure only to contact him on load-bearing surfaces to allow for natural air movement as possible.”
While some solutions offered slight improvements, nothing kept the client cool enough.
However, Victoria met Corien Staels, Founder of wheelAIR, at Naidex and learned about wheelAIR. The client’s OT, Suzanna Shari, then saw the clinical need for wheelAIR system for the cliet, which is how the case for funding was made.
Victoria detailed the process of how she integrated the wheelAIR system into his mould: “We made a copy of his current seating and material was removed from the centre of the backrest. The wheelAIR rubber channels were imbedded into the backrest with a double layer of padding over the channels.
“The padding we tried first was what we would typically use, a 15mm thick layer of viscoelastic foam over the LD24 Plasterzote backrest. The viscoelastic foam did not allow for the convention of air from the wheelAIR defeating the object.
“Next, we tried a combustion modified foam which suffered from the same problem. Finally, we settled on the honeycomb SupraCore glued LD24, with his original towelling cover which includes a thin layer of combustion modified padding sewn inside the cover.”
The prototype cooling system worked really well and led to: the client only needing his t-shirt changing once or twice per day; his mother no longer needing to wipe perspiration from his face; no further need to change in situ slings; no towel required behind his back; the client scratching less and a reduction of redness to his back.
However, the SupraCor began to peel off and the thin layer of foam in the backrest cover nullified the effects of the wheelAIR.
After a little trial and error with some materials, wheelAIR discovered the Polyvent bonded securely to Plasterzote. The Polyvent was then purchased and used to line the client’s backrest. New covers were also made from a spacer material and issued back to the client.
After a 12-month study, it became clear that the wheelAIR significantly improved the client’s life and that of those around him. He now only needs his clothes changing only once per day and barely shows any sign of sweating anymore.