Original article| Volume 91, ISSUE 11, P1758-1764, November 2010

Effect of Wheelchair Tilt-in-Space and Recline Angles on Skin Perfusion Over the Ischial Tuberosity in People With Spinal Cord Injury


      Jan Y-K, Jones MA, Rabadi MH, Foreman RD, Thiessen A. Effect of wheelchair tilt-in-space and recline angles on skin perfusion over the ischial tuberosity in people with spinal cord injury.


      To investigate the efficacy of wheelchair tilt-in-space and recline on enhancing skin perfusion over the ischial tuberosity in wheelchair users with spinal cord injury (SCI).


      Repeated-measures, intervention, and outcomes-measure design.


      A university research laboratory.


      Wheelchair users with SCI (N=11; 9 men, 2 women; mean ± SD age, 37.7±14.2y; body mass index, 24.7±2.6kg/m2; duration of injury, 8.1±7.5y).


      Protocols (N=6) of various wheelchair tilt-in-space and recline angles were randomly assigned to participants. Each protocol consisted of a 5-minute sitting-induced ischemic period and a 5-minute wheelchair tilt-in-space and recline pressure-relieving period. Participants sat in a position without tilt or recline for 5 minutes and then sat in 1 of 6 wheelchair tilted and reclined positions, including (1) 15° tilt-in-space and 100° recline, (2) 25° tilt-in-space and 100° recline, (3) 35° tilt-in-space and 100° recline, (4) 15° tilt-in-space and 120° recline, (5) 25° tilt-in-space and 120° recline, and (6) 35° tilt-in-space and 120° recline. A 5-minute washout period (at 35° tilt-in-space and 120° recline) was allowed between protocols.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Laser Doppler flowmetry was used to measure skin perfusion over the ischial tuberosity in response to changes in body positions caused by performing wheelchair tilt-in-space and recline. Skin perfusion response to wheelchair tilt-in-space and recline was normalized to skin perfusion of the upright seated position (no tilt/recline).


      Combined with 100° recline, wheelchair tilt-in-space at 35° resulted in a significant increase in skin perfusion compared with the upright seated position (no tilt/recline; P<.05), whereas there was no significant increase in skin perfusion at 15° and 25° tilt-in-space (not significant). Combined with 120° recline, wheelchair tilt-in-space at 15°, 25°, and 35° showed a significant increase in skin perfusion compared with the upright seated position (P<.05).


      Our results indicate that wheelchair tilt-in-space should be at least 35° for enhancing skin perfusion over the ischial tuberosity when combined with recline at 100° and should be at least 25° when combined with recline at 120°. Although smaller angles of wheelchair tilt-in-space and recline are preferred by wheelchair users for functional purposes, wheelchair tilt-in-space less than 25° and recline less than 100° may not be sufficient for effective pressure reduction for enhancing skin perfusion over the ischial tuberosity in people with SCI.

      Key Words

      List of Abbreviations:

      ASIA (American Spinal Injury Association), LDF (laser Doppler flowmetry), SCI (spinal cord injury)
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