Wheelchairs are a common sight, especially in hospitals. Indeed, there are about 750 000 wheelchair users in the UK, out of a population of nearly 60 million, and they even feature on one of our postage stamps (Fig. 1). Although £90 million is spent each year on wheelchair services, some chairs are in poor condition (Fig. 2). Wheelchairs injure occupants, sometimes fatally. Attendants may also sustain injuries. Some patients develop neurological impairments as a result of using their wheelchairs. And many of these injuries and impairments are preventable.
Cerebrovascular disease is the most common neurological condition leading to wheelchair use (25% of wheelchair users have had a stroke). And many other people with neurological disorders spend time in a wheelchair: for example, those with spinal injuries, multiple sclerosis, polio and muscular dystrophy. We believe that the assessment of neurological patients who use wheelchairs is incomplete without examining their wheelchairs.
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