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How Power Wheelchairs Can Lower the Risk of Developing Acute Respiratory Failure

If you or someone you know struggles to breathe when completing activities of daily living, you may be at a high risk for developing acute respiratory failure (ARF), a condition that effects the lungs’ ability to successfully inhale oxygen or exhale carbon dioxide.

ARF typically occurs when someone has a condition that prevents the lungs from operating properly or has had an injury that directly affected the health of the lungs.


What Can Cause Acute Respiratory Failure?

Because ARF can happen suddenly, if you aren’t equipped to understand how to identify ARF and how it can be treated, developing this condition could become fatal. Knowing what these conditions are can help you and your loved ones create a prevention plan. Here are a few conditions that can cause ARF to occur more often:


How to Identify Acute Respiratory Failure?

The most common sign of ARF is brought on by difficulties breathing, which can either be classified as hypoxemic respiratory failure or hypercapnic respiratory failure. But what exactly does this mean and how can these conditions be identified? Read below for definitions of these conditions and their symptoms.

Hypoxemic Respiratory Failure

Occurs when there isn’t enough oxygen in the blood stream. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Bluish coloring of the lips, fingers, or toes

  • Drowsiness

  • Difficulties performing activities of daily living due to extreme tiredness

Hypercapnic Respiratory Failure

Occurs when there is too much carbon dioxide in the blood stream. Symptoms include:

  • Rapid breathing

  • Confusion

  • Blurred vision

  • Headaches


What Gives Power Wheelchairs the Ability to Lower the Risk of Acute Respiratory Failure?

There are many features to a power wheelchair that can help in the prevention of developing ARF. The most notable feature is its ability to customize the chair to the unique needs of the individual. Having this ability allows the user to easily adjust seating positions to increase blood flow, tilt backwards to prevent skin breakdown, and fully recline to evenly distribute body weight and boost muscle health.

Features that Help Prevent ARF
  • Adjustable Seating

    • Adjustable seating features come in a variety of options ranging from back cushions, seat cushions, and contoured seating options, to customizable memory seating positions and adjustable seat height for maximum comfort. This is a great feature for those who have spinal injuries, muscle imbalances, or severe nerve damage.

  • Power Tilt

    • The power tilt feature lets users shift their body weight where needed, so they can offset body pressure and prevent possible skin breakdown. During the power tilt process, the hip will maintain a 90-degree angle while the body weight shifts to the back for support. While skin breakdown may not be a direct indicator of ARF, if not treated properly skin breakdown can lead to muscle and other organ failures.

  • Power Recline

    • The power recline feature allows users to fully extend their body so they may spread out their body weight evenly. Additionally, users can lie completely flat for resting, stretching, or to prevent muscle imbalances. This feature is perfect for maintaining good blood flow and organ health.

Additionally, power wheelchairs offer a variety of add-on options to accommodate condition changes or environmental changes. Interchanging various add-on options is especially helpful as it can help prevent future chronic conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative shoulder disease, or major muscle imbalances.


How a Power Wheelchair Helped Others Lower the Risk of Developing ARF

If you think you may be struggling with ARF, see how a custom wheelchair can positively impact your life, just like it has for these other Rehab Medical patients.


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