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Thread: Leg-Propelled Wheelchair Deemed Easy to Handle

  1. #1

    Leg-Propelled Wheelchair Deemed Easy to Handle

    Tuesday September 25 1:10 PM ET
    Leg-Propelled Wheelchair Deemed Easy to Handle
    By Melissa Schorr

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new style of wheelchair that users propel with their legs rather than their arms was easier for many patients to use and may provide added health benefits, a team of Canadian researchers reports.

    ``Using this new wheelchair, people can go faster with less effort,'' Dr. Richard B. Stein, professor of physiology and neuroscience at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, told Reuters Health. ``By using the larger leg muscles, this uses about half the amount of effort it takes with your arms.''

    Traditional mechanical wheelchairs, which are used by people with limited or no use of their legs, are propelled forward by the arms, and can eventually strain the arm and shoulder muscles while allowing leg muscles to wear down, Stein said.

    The leg-powered wheelchair allows patients who have some use of the legs to use their leg muscles to propel the chair forward. In addition, the wheelchair can be used by those with severe spinal cord injuries who have no independent control of their legs, using functional electric stimulation (FES), a system that stimulates leg muscles to automatically contract.

    ``The disabled need to exercise their legs to keep them in good shape,'' Stein explained. ``Few do, and adding an exercise burden is not practical. Our goal has been to make it part of their daily life so they get benefits naturally.''

    The concept of a leg-powered chair was originally developed and patented by other researchers. Stein and a collaborator are now hoping to improve upon that original design and eventually get a working product to market.

    The researchers tested the leg-propelled wheelchair on three groups: 13 students with no known disabilities; 9 people with spinal cord injuries who used FES to enable their leg muscles to work; and 13 people with disabilities such as stroke, spina bifida and balance problems, who used a wheelchair but still had some control over their leg movements.

    The researchers measured how much the participants' heart rates and oxygen consumption went up in relation to the distance they traveled in the new wheelchairs, traditional wheelchairs and by walking. The results are published in the September issue of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

    The investigators found that for the non-disabled group and the group who used FES, the leg-propelled wheelchair took half as much energy to move as the traditional arm-propelled wheelchair did.

    ``It turns out to be a remarkably efficient way of getting around,'' Stein noted.

    However, those people with weakness or spasticity in their legs did not have an easier time using the leg-propelled chair. ''Not everyone is going to be able to use this,'' Stein said.

    But for people with some leg function but no leg-muscle spasticity, the leg-powered chair did prove easier to use.

    Stein said he plans to next measure whether the wheelchair improves leg muscle functioning and prevents bone atrophy in the long term.

    SOURCE: Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2001;82:1198-

  2. #2

    Definately a worthwhile project

    It is a great idea, perhaps it would make sense for people to use these when they are available rather than a stationary FES Bike, I am really considering getting involved in this project, with my Engineering background, it would be a natural. I wonder how large a Battery would be required to provide FES stimulation for a couple hours of run time? It would be good if the chair were as light as possible and still had the capability to be folded. This way Quads and Paras would be able to use a lightweight folding chair that could easily be folded and put in a car and not have to use a van when transporting the Pedal chair. I am just wondering the amount of Energy that would be required to run the Computer and the Electrode Stimulators? anybody have any ideas?

  3. #3
    The battery required for FES doesn't have to be very large at all. Most of the energy is coming from your body. Portable FES machines typically have lithium batteries that are less than a pound and can go for hours.

    You can easily calculate it on the basis of milliamps. Generally, FES stimulation require stimulus amplitudes of about 10 mA and pulse durations of 2 msec or less. So, just a couple of small lithium batteries can probably stimulate 10 electrodes for 8 hours or longer.


  4. #4

    Thanks Dr. Young

    That means a FES lightweight wheelchair could be a viable option. The Computer stuff and discharge coil could probabley be about the size of a pack of cigarettes and as far as the Electrodes goes, Bioflex pants could be worn, the pedals would be in place of the foot rests and could be simply connected to cables that would drive each wheel and would run through the frame. To turn one leg would be stimulated more than the other therefore applying more power to that wheel and making the chair turn. There could be a small hand controlled joystick which would regulate the amount of stimulation going to each leg. When pushed right it would provide more stim to the left leg, therefore turning right.

    The Pedals would be foldable just as the flip up footrests are and the cables that run from them to the wheels would be able to be disengaged so the chair would be able to be used as a conventional manual chair should the legs get tired or if the user wanted to work the arms on certain days.

    Any Ideas on who would be a good contact on my idea? I really would like to get involved with the project. My business venture that I was pursuing has fallen through, it was an Auto repair business and there were Environmental problems with the site that I was planning on buying plus with the Economy being so bad at this point I figured it was best to back off from the deal. Thanks, Curtis.

  5. #5
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Columbus, OH, USA

    The outdoor FES bike is something that I have an interest in and in fact have been collaborating with a company from Holland already. They have finalized their design and now waiting for their CE mark. I am going to Holland to meet the company next month and will let you know how it's progressing. The guy who developed it is an engineer and seems to be doing a nice job. He is using the Bioflex shorts as you suggested in your note. The FDA would have to grant approval before it could be sold in the US and that's something I may get involved in.

  6. #6

    Got a website for the leg action chair?


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