The acceptability and accessibility of magnetic walking aids when used in hospital: a randomised trial

Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2023 Nov 29:1-8. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2023.2287159. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: Poor walking aid compliance and accessibility can put the user at an increased risk of falls. We explored the acceptability and accessibility of magnetic walking aids (MWAs) compared to standard walking aids (SWAs) in inpatients following joint replacement.

Methods and materials: A non-blinded pilot randomised controlled trial was conducted. Inpatients following hip or knee replacement were randomly allocated to the MWA group (n = 20) or the SWA group (n = 20). Primary outcomes were the acceptability and accessibility of the MWA compared to the SWA during their inpatient stay, assessed through made-to-measure patient and staff questionnaires. The secondary outcome was the number of times the walking aid came to rest on the floor, measured using logbooks kept by participants.

Results: The participants in the MWA group reported their aid was more easily accessible, and that they were more likely to use their aid in their room than participants in the SWA group. Participants in the MWA group dropped their aid less often, with a median of 0.3 walking aid drops per day in the MWA group and 1.1 drops per day in the SWA group (p = 0.002).

Conclusion: The results of this pilot randomised trial suggest MWAs may be an acceptable and inexpensive intervention for improving walking aid accessibility and adherence and reducing walking aid drops when compared to SWAs.

Keywords: Magnetic walking aid; accidental falls; adherence; assistive devices; assistive technology; patient; rehabilitation.

Plain language summary

Magnetic walking aids may be a simple and cost effective way for improving walking aid compliance compared to standard walking aids.Walking aid adherence can be difficult to monitor within hospital and community settings.Magnetic walking aids may be safe to use in a controlled inpatient hospital environment with no adverse effects.Magnetic walking aids may reduce the number of instances a walking aid inadvertently comes to rest on the floor. This is of particular importance to patients post-operatively. For example, total hip replacements, where reaching to pick up an aid from the floor could lead to hip dislocation.