The real value of a wheelchair cushion
The most recent issue of Mobility Management magazine has a segment call the marketplace where they showcase a type of product and manufacturers contribute their product descriptions along with a picture of their product. The idea is to put a group of the same type of product together in one space so the readers can get an overview of each of the products shown and get an idea of what is available.
In this particular issue the marketplace featured seat cushions. The cushion is a very important accessory to a wheelchair because it is the only accessory on the wheelchair that has a direct impact on the user’s health and wellbeing. This would seem to be beneficial to the reader unfamiliar with the various wheelchair cushions, but one must look a little deeper into the real benefits of various cushions to get a better understanding.
The basic function of a wheelchair cushion is to provide some type of cushioning between the wheelchair seat pan and the body and to make sitting more comfortable for the user. It can be helpful for stability and positioning.
The cushion can also play a small or huge role in preventing and healing pressure injuries. Pressure injury occurs when the skin and tissue are compressed by the body weight and circulation is cut off to the point that cells begin to die. A cushion can be somewhat helpful by lowering the interface pressure but the compressed tissue needs pressure relief to have circulation reestablished and assist with healing pressure injuries. There is one cushion in the marketplace segment that does exactly that but first I want to say a few words about the rest of the cushions presented in the marketplace segment.
A cushion called the Axiom by KI Mobility uses a viscoelastic material that according to them deforms and returns to shape very slowly. The lag time is slow so there is less force pushing back after deformation. It should be noted that the deformation they refer to is from body movement. The body movement is supplied 100% by the user from doing weight shifts or some other type of movement. The cushion itself cannot initiate any movement. This cushion has a hexagonal pattern to reduce compression around the IT’s and coccyx according to KI. In the absence of movement initiated by the user, there is constant pressure with this cushion.
Amylior showcases an air only cushion called the CG Air which is a gray roho knock off. They claim to reinvent the air cushion. The CG Air allegedly addresses hygiene, stability and maintenance without compromising on pressure management. They claim that more air moves under the user in a smoother flow to help stimulate blood circulation. The PVC material retains its shape without splaying and it promotes true immersion while actively creating an ischial well to stabilize the pelvis. I don’t know what they mean by true immersion as opposed to false immersion, I guess. The fact is that like the roho this air cushion has no warning device if it leaks and the air is lost. Remember, air is the only material protecting the user from totally bottoming out. There is a very big risk in using an air only cushion with no low pressure warning device. A user could potentially sit for many hours on a flat cushion of this type if it develops a leak and that is very dangerous.
Proactive Medial showcases the Protekt o2. They make the claim that this deep blue roho knock off is designed to prevent or treat existing pressure injuries. They say their static air cushion provides deep immersion and excellent pressure redistribution. This is an exact copy of the roho dual valve cushion with two compartments. The cushion includes the hand pump, patch kit and a cover. This cushion certainly shares one more characteristic of a roho cushion. No warning device if the cushion goes flat. This cushion like all air only cushions poses a risk. The risk is losing all protection if there is a leak. The user will be completely bottomed out and in very grave danger if an air cushion like this, leaks.
Stealth products show a cushion called the Glacial SP. This cushion is made with a molded foam base and a soft gel top layer for skin protection. This simple cushion like any other static cushion requires the user to initiate their own pressure relief every 20 minutes to try and avoid pressure injury. This cushion cannot create its own pressure relief.
Motion Concepts shows their Matrx PSP cushion which is composed of a molded polymer layer and a waffle ischial relief and anatomically contoured HR foam with odor protection. It features a rear cushion radius and waterfall front. Again, this is a basic static cushion with no ability to provide pressure relief on its own. The user must make their own pressure relief every 20 minutes or risk pressure injury.
Sunrise medical showcases what they call Syncra seating which is specifically for tilt /recline. The cushion and back combo work together to minimize movement to help prevent body displacement. It features lowered pelvic wall and deeper femoral troughs to keep the user’s body in the optimal position when reclining. This seems logical to hold the user in position, but it does not give pressure relief to compressed skin and tissue. Going into a tilt or reclined position changes the load from the posterior only to the posterior and lower back. It reduces pressure to the posterior but that is not the same as pressure relief. Pressure relief is the only way to ensure tissue perfusion which fights pressure injury.
Symetric designs shows the free form seating which is molded seating that allows corrective positioning. The idea is the seat can adapt to a growing user. Again, this is great for positioning and holding a person in position but does nothing for supplying pressure relief. The pressure to the skin and tissue is constant.
Varilite shows the reflex cushion. This cushion is a static air foam flotation cushion and it features a set amount of immersion. They indicate this is ideal for nursing homes, hospitals and other clinical environments. They claim it is effective and low maintenance. It is a static cushion with no ability to provide pressure relief. The user must provide their own pressure relief every 20 minutes or risk pressure injury.
The interesting thing about this variety of cushions in the marketplace section is that of the 9 cushions showcased only one cushion that by itself provides pressure relief to the skin and tissue to assist with healing pressure injuries. This means the cushion actively brings a change to the constant pressure in the posterior. The wheelchair cushion replicates a pressure lift so circulation is not cut off. It does this automatically 60 times per hour. That cushion is the SofTech by Aquila. The SofTech utilizes electronics and a pump to automatically inflate and deflate 2 sets of internal air bladders to create the pressure relief. The SofTech is so advanced that it has all the system components built into the wheelchair cushion base so there is no separate controller to carry. Each Softech wheelchair cushion is custom made to order and if the user has a pressure injury currently, the SofTech is made to offload under the injury site to help with healing pressure injuries. SofTech is in a category all its own because it actively works to improve the users health and well being. The old standard of lying in bed for weeks or months to wait for a pressure injury to heal is no longer the case with the SofTech by Aquila. Visit www.aquilacorp.com to read more about the Aquila wheelchair cushions. Move up to the best. Aquila.