Design of Wheelchair Seating Systems for Users with High-Tone Extensor Thrust
Kitchen, James Patrick
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High-tone extensor thrust is common to those with cerebral palsy and those suffering spinal cord injuries. It is a muscle-control phenomenon that causes the body to straighten spastically. One goal of this thesis is to design a dynamic seating system that moves with respect to the wheelchair frame, allowing the seat to move with the user during an extensor thrust and reduce forces. One unique challenge is that the seat needs to remain rigid during normal functional activities and only become dynamic when an involuntary thrust is detected. A second goal of this thesis is to design a control scheme that is able to differentiate between these two types of motion. These design goals are initially investigated with a hinged-seatback system, instrumented with sensors to allow for the detection of thrusts and to actively control seating components. A full seating system is then built to allow for full-body extensor thrusts, involving the seatback, seat bottom, and leg rest of the wheelchair. This system is analyzed for effectiveness of reducing forces on the body during an extensor thrust. Another serious problem for this segment of the population is pressure ulcers. These are caused by prolonged pressure on the skin from weight-bearing bony prominences. Various seating system configurations are known to help with pressure relief. The three standard configurations for a chair are tilt, recline, and standing. The final goal of this thesis is to measure and compare the effectiveness of these three methods for their ability to relieve pressure on the seat bottom. To accomplish this, a powered wheelchair with built-in capabilities for recline and standing is mounted to a tilting mechanism. Test subjects are used to experimentally compare the effectiveness of each method for pressure reduction using pressure mats on all weight-bearing surfaces. A 2D model is also developed and validated with the experimental results.