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Rehabilitation Engineering and Applied Research Lab (REAR Lab)

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    Biomechanical responses to seated full body tilt and their relationship to clinical application
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2009-08-19) Sonenblum, Sharon Eve
    The overall goal of this research is to improve the use of seated tilt to increase function, health and quality of life for people using power wheelchairs. Specifically, the objective of this dissertation is to evaluate the biomechanical responses to seated full body tilt and their relationships to the actual use of tilt-in-space wheelchairs. In the first phase of this study, researchers remotely monitored how 45 fulltime power wheelchair users used their tilt-in-space systems. Participants spent an average of 12.1 hours in their wheelchair each day. They spent more than 2 hours seated at positions greater than 15° and performed tilts of 5° or greater every 27 minutes, but rarely performed tilts past 30°. Two distinct types of tilt behavior were identified: uni-modal (staying at a single position more than 80% of the time) and multi-modal (staying at a single position less than 80% of the time). Participants in the multi-modal group tilted significantly more frequently (4 times per hour) than the uni-modal group, and did not have a single typical position. Participants without sensation were more likely to exhibit uni-modal behavior. In the second phase of this study, researchers used interface pressure measurements and laser Doppler flowmetry to study changes in localized loading and superficial blood flow at the ischial tuberosities across different amounts of tilt. Eleven participants with spinal cord injuries were studied in a laboratory setting. Results showed that biomechanical responses to tilt were highly variable. Pressure reduction at the ischial tuberosity was not present at 15°, but did occur with tilts to 30° and greater, and could be explained by the tilt position and upright pressure. Unlike pressure, blood flow increased with all tilts from an upright position, but did not increase when tilting from 15° to 30°. Only 4 of 11 participants had a considerable increase (≥10%) in blood flow at 30° tilt, whereas 9 participants did during maximum tilt (i.e., 45°-60°). Based on the results of this study, tilting for pressure reliefs as far as the seating system permits is recommended to maximize the potential for significant blood flow increases and pressure relief.