Wheelchair safety--adverse reports to the United States Food and Drug Administration

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. Jul-Aug 1995;74(4):308-12. doi: 10.1097/00002060-199507000-00009.


Evidence has been accumulating that injuries related to wheelchair use are common and sometimes serious. The object of this study was to evaluate the databases of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for insights to the nature and causes of such problems. We analyzed 651 records that were received by the FDA between 1975 and 1993. There were 368 injuries, 21 of which were fatal, affecting 334 wheelchair users. Fractures were the most common (45.5%), with lacerations (22.3%) and contusions/abrasions (20.1%) accounting for most of the remainder. The proportion of incidents related to the use of scooters, powered wheelchairs, and manual wheelchairs were 52.8%, 24.6%, and 22.6%, respectively. Four broad classes of contributing factors, often acting in combination, were implicated: engineering (60.5%), environmental (25.4%), occupant (9.6%), and system (4.6%). Of the tips and falls, those in the forward direction were most common in incidents affecting manual or powered wheelchairs, but the sideways direction was most common in scooters. The FDA database provides a unique perspective on wheelchair safety, with implications for clinicians, users, manufacturers, and regulatory bodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Safety*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Wheelchairs / adverse effects*
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology*