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What is Complex Rehab?

Definition of Complex Rehab

Examples of Complex Rehab Technology

Considerations for Selecting CRT

Illnesses or Injuries Requiring CRT

VGM Forbin works with several Complex Rehab therapists and equipment dealers. Within the medical equipment industry, the term is well known. However, for those who don't spend as much time with occupational therapists and HMEs, it may be less clear: what is complex rehab?

Definition of Complex Rehab

Complex Rehab is a category of durable medical equipment designed to meet the very individualized medical, mobility and accessibility needs of someone with an injury or disease that affects the spinal cord. Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) needs to be extremely individualized with highly configurable functionality and support, generally with consideration given to support and positioning of a patient's back, legs, arms, neck and head.

What are Examples of Complex Rehab Technology?

CRT might include any number of items that supplement the limited functionality of a patient's arms or legs and support the head, neck, back, arms or legs. Some examples of CRT equipment are:

  • Complex power chairs
  • Highly configurable manual wheelchairs
  • Seating and positioning systems
  • Standing frames
  • Gait trainers

While equipment like patient lifts, fully adjustable hospital beds and transfer chairs can be important to living a happy and healthy life with a debilitating illness or injury, they don't require much customized configuration, programming or fitting. They are part of the larger Durable Medical Equipment category but are not Complex Rehab Technologies. 

What Considerations Need to be Made when Selecting Complex Rehab Equipment?

Size and strength - Heavy-Duty, high-strength or bariatric equipment is built to be sturdier in day-to-day use and to hold up better long-term. Lightweight equipment trades some elements of durability for portability. Pediatric equipment may be smaller size and be designed with more adjustability for height over time. 

Rigid or compacting - Some equipment needs to fold or compact for transport. Other equipment is built with a more rigid frame. These rigid devices may not need to be as easily transported or might need fixed joints to support more weight or to increase sturdiness.

Tilt-in-space or reclining - Does the equipment need to tilt to specified angles to release pressure or to accommodate activities that may otherwise be more difficult? Some equipment tilts back for comfort. 

Seating and positioning - Any CRT equipment is going to have pressure areas where the patient's skin can rub or where their body holds up weight. The way that padding, positions the patient and the systems for repositioning as needed can be important features. 

Power vs manual - Most CRT equipment is powered, allowing the patient to drive without requiring much strength. Some patients are unable to drive devices on their own but have equipment with controls to allow a caregiver to easily maneuver the patient. Other powered technologies are fitted with adaptable power or alternate drive controls, allowing the patient to drive their equipment without using their hands. Other, very individualized manual equipment can be manually rolled as needed, usually by a caregiver.

What Illnesses or Injuries Require CRT?

CRT can be beneficial for a person who has had a traumatic injury affecting the spinal cord or to someone with a degenerative neuromuscular disease. A few examples include:

  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • ALS
  • Accidents involving impact to the spinal cord or brain
  • Severe stroke
  • Congenital disorders

For disambiguation, this definition and description of CRT refers to Complex Rehab Technology. Other uses of the initialism include Critical Race Theory - the study of social and political factors related to race and ethnicity or Cathode Ray Tube televisions and monitors where a vacuum tube manipulated electron beams into images on a screen.