SMA patients often need specialized equipment to help with breathing, coughing and swallowing, to support them in daily activities and to increase their mobility.
Equipment needs depend on the severity of the condition. It can range from simpler walking aids, such as braces and grab bars, to electric wheelchairs, bath chairs, breathing and feeding equipment, and car beds for traveling.
Some organizations loan equipment to ease the financial burden that equipment needs can impose.
Here’s a rundown on types of equipment:
Specialized equipment for mobility
Adaptive strollers, which are also known as medical strollers, help a child sit more comfortably. Some have trays to carry medical equipment.
Wheelchairs improve SMA patients’ mobility. Patients can power them manually, or they can be motor-driven. In addition, wheelchairs can be off-the-shelf or customized to fit particular patients’ needs.
Specialized equipment for domestic use
Bath chairs offer secure bathing to people with special needs. The seats and back angles are usually adjustable.
Feeder seats are soft-foam positioning seats designed for all ages. An alternative to a stander or wheelchair, they are simple to use and don’t require many adjustments.
Specialized equipment for bone support
These include braces and standers. There are three types of bracers:
- Ankle-foot orthoses, or AFOs, help control the position and motion of the ankle by compensating for weakness or correcting deformities. They can support weak limbs or position a limb who muscles have contracted into a normal position.
- Knee-ankle-foot orthoses, or KAFOs, provide support and proper joint alignment to the knee, foot and ankle. They are used to replace or help weak muscles, and protect the foot and lower limbs.
- Thoraco-lumbo-sacral orthosis, or TLSOs, are back braces that wrap under the arms and around the thorax, lower back and hips to help make the spine straighter.
Standers promote bone strength by forcing users to bear their body’s weight on their legs. They also help with digestion, circulation and breathing.
Specialized equipment for traveling
Car beds help a child lie in a secure, comfortable position while traveling. They are of vital importance to babies with SMA type 1 because thse infants can experience apnea and oxygen desaturation when in a car seat.
Specialized equipment for breathing
A bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machine can sense a person’s normal breathing cycle and work with it. The devices provides a user with higher pressure and an increased volume of air while inhaling, and automatically lowers the pressure when the person is exhaling. It also helps users who are not breathing properly because they are sleeping. The airway pressure is delivered through a mask that’s either over the nose or over both the nose and mouth, or through a tube running from under the nose into the nostrils.
A cough assist machine forces air into the lungs at a predetermined pressure, then sucks the air out at another predetermined pressure. It helps maintain airway clearance.
A pulse oximeter is a small clamp or band-aid-like device that is used to check blood oxygen levels through a finger or a toe. It alerts users to blood-oxygen-level problems or if they need help with coughing. Children with SMA need extra breathing support when oxygen levels drop too low.
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