Cryo Technology in a Wheelchair Cushion?
A recent article in Mobility Management magazine discussed a new wheelchair cushion technology that is designed to provide cooling to the wheelchair user. I found this concept new and interesting, so I read the article to find out all about the remarkable claim. The article begins by talking about how the wheelchair cushion, in general, serves to protect an end-user’s from skin breakdown and pressure injury. The article also details how we typically consider the client’s weight and offloading or contouring the wheelchair cushion. Offloading is absolutely the key to avoiding pressure injury. That part they got right.
The article goes on explaining microclimate, which is the interface between the wheelchair cushion and the user. It says that when heat and moisture get trapped there the client can be at a greater risk of skin breakdown. This is also correct. Heat and moisture do contribute to skin maceration which can contribute to skin breakdown and/or pressure injuries.
It seems Sunrise Medical has a solution to the microclimate (heat issue) with a wheelchair cushion. They call it “Cryo Technology.” The loose definition of cyro is “involving or producing cold.” Now that is certainly something new to wheelchair cushions. A cushion that produces cold… I wondered how that was accomplished. They go on to say the technology works actively, not passively to cool. Are we to understand what they are describing a new technology in wheelchair cushions which actively produces cold to assist in preventing skin breakdown?
The production manager for Jay, Tom Ryan, says the cryo technology was developed to address not only pressure and shear, but to take skin protection a step further by addressing skin temperature and moisture by cooling the surface of the skin. The article clearly states, that lowering skin temperature as little as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, can reduce the risk of skin breakdown significantly.
They cite the second law of thermodynamics that says, heat will naturally flow from an object of higher temperature to an object with a lower temperature. The claim is that the Jay fluid pulls heat from the user, absorbing it through melting paraffin within the microbeads. The use of graphite pulls heat away from the body and lowers the temperature.
Ryan says this wheelchair cushion “actively cools the seated skin for up to 8 hours while evenly distributing pressure, reducing shear and lowering the risk of moisture.” Ryan claims the cooling begins as soon as the client sits down. He explains the cryo technology was engineered to mildly cool the skin with a therapeutic temperate range of 82.4 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit, effectively lowering the risk of skin breakdown.
Ryan further states, when the user transfers off the cushion the cushion will naturally recharge while not in use. Sunrise recommends that Jay fluid cushions “recharge” for 12 hours at room temperature to reach peak performance. They refer to this as a high-tech way of cooling. This active process has been shown to provide greater cooling to keep skin within healthier temperature ranges.
Curious about this new “technology,” I visited the Sunrise website to learn more about this remarkable claim and most importantly to see the clinical data to back up these statements.
Surprisingly, I found no studies involving temperature changes to the skin as related to pressure injury. Instead, they make a reference to “studies that have found that cooling the skin from 97 degrees to 82 degrees is equal to reducing interface pressure by 29%.” Being difficult to believe, I want to see this study, but they don’t name the study, show a link to the study, or name the person or group that performed the study. It just sounds too good to be true and it just might be.
All Sunrise wheelchair cushions are static (non-moving) cushions. The claim that a static wheelchair cushion can actively cool the skin frankly does not make sense. The definition of active is “moving or tending to move about vigorously or frequently.” There is no part of the wheelchair cushion in question that moves at all. The melting wax which they reference on their website is not vigorous movement.
A Jay wheelchair cushion is a static cushion which exerts constant pressure to the posterior. The user is required provide their own pressure relief (movement) when using this type of wheelchair cushion. This requirement is obviously problematic for users who are unable to perform their own pressure lifts/shifts effectively every 20 minutes (as recommended).
Sunrise claims that their cushion actively cools the skin with no proof, studies, or evidence to back up that claim.
Their ad states that pressure injuries affect 95% of all spinal cord injury wheelchair users. They continue to say that their gel cushion addresses pressure, sheer, temperature, and moisture. A static wheelchair cushion (non-moving cushion) simply remains without motion and applies constant pressure.
Ultimately, the claims made about this cryo cooling wheelchair cushion are simply not proven and lack any data to back up the claims. Claims such as these must be backed up with verified data. Otherwise, you are just making noise and sending out false information to desperate individuals who may already be suffering from pressure injuries.
If someone needs a custom fabricated, dynamic, alternating wheelchair cushion that can also cool the skin, they should look to Aquila Corporation. We have the only wheelchair cushions on the market with an (optional) integrated wheelchair cushion fan. Our SofTech wheelchair cushion has an optional automatic wheelchair cushion fan that sends air directly to the surface of the wheelchair cushion. Make the most of your wheelchair cushion dollars and go with the only cushion with clinical data to show its effectiveness. Choose Aquila wheelchair cushions.