What is a Cardiac Chair?

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  • Originally Written By: Kristen Douglas
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 30 April 2020
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A cardiac chair is a type of medical device that is designed to help people recover more quickly from heart surgery and respiratory illnesses. In most cases it go from fully flat to fully upright with the push of a few buttons. The chair works a lot like a hospital bed in terms of quick adjustability, but it is usually able to do a lot more than simply recline or prop the patient — most models are made of several moving parts that form a true chair, supporting the patient’s back and buttocks as well as the arms and legs. Heart health experts often recommend this sort of device to people who are recovering from heart surgery. Sitting propped can help the healing process, and the mechanizations of the chair can prevent strain and injury, particularly for people who are already in a fragile or compromised state. Most chairs are in hospitals and are for use only during immediate recovery, though people with on-going conditions or long-term care needs can sometimes also rent or purchase one for use at home.

How it Works

The device is made to serve as a fully reclined bed at times, but can be adjusted to form what otherwise looks like a somewhat bulky but normal chair. Its main goal is to elevate the patient from the waist up without requiring the patient to move much, if at all. Medical experts usually agree that an upright, seated position provides more relief to the lungs and can improve circulation. As opposed to a hospital bed, the chair is usually easier to adjust; it also has several movable sections rather than a single mattress. Mattresses can often adjust a little bit, but they are typically intended more for basic reclining and propping than actual specialized support.

Many chairs are on wheels, which can help patients who are already in sitting positions to be moved to other hospital departments or rooms without having to move about, as would be required if transitioning from bed to wheelchair. These devices aren’t limited to people in cardiac centers, either. People who have respiratory illnesses can often benefit by being elevated into sitting positions and are sometimes put in these devices, as are people who are recovering from other major procedures or surgeries that involve healing in the chest or torso region.

Main Benefits of Chair Therapy

If a patient who has undergone cardiac surgery were to try to move from a flat position to a sitting position on a hospital bed, he or she would run the risk of straining the fresh sutures and could put undue pressure of the recovering heart. This movement is especially difficult for larger or weaker patients, even with medical staff assistance.

Sitting up too quickly after a surgical procedure can also cause dizziness and increase a patient's chance of falling. With a cardiac chair, the patient or staff can adjust the chair slowly into a sitting position from the waist up, and then adjust the lower part of the chair from the knee down. By doing this, the patient has no strain on his or her sutures, heart, or lungs, and can adjust to the altered position without dizziness.

Basics of Cardiac Recovery

The theoretical basis for having cardiac patients sit during recovery has been promoted in medical circles for decades. In the early 1940s, medical professionals discovered that patients who had undergone surgery or who had experienced cardiac arrest recovered more quickly and more fully if they became ambulatory sooner rather than later. Doctors began using chair therapy — namely, having patients move from bed to chair to sit for portions of the day — because patients in sitting positions had less strain in breathing and had improved circulation over those who were in laying down positions for their entire stay. By the early 1950s, short walks were also recommended. The cardiac chair has made it much easier for medical staff and patients to be able to sit and to get into position to stand.

Use at Home

The vast majority of these chairs are used in hospitals, particularly in cardiac wards. They tend to be very expensive, and the number of moving parts they require means that they often need more regular maintenance than other devices that are more simply constructed. It’s usually somewhat rare for people to have these chairs in their homes, though this may be recommended for people who have chronic heart of breathing conditions, particularly those who are elderly or particularly frail. The purchase price is often very high, but in many cases they can be rented from medical supply companies for a span of months or years.

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Post 2

My cousin's husband had bypass heart surgery a few years back. I think that he must have used a cardiac hospital chair when he was recuperating in the hospital. It's such a good idea. And to think that something that was put into use in the 1940s is still used today.

He uses a recliner chair to help him breathe more easily. He sleeps in an upright position on nights when he has trouble sleeping comfortably.

Post 1

Incredible! Something as simple as a comfortable chair that can bring so much comfort and make recovery quicker. It stands to reason that using a chair to sleep and rest in can ease the strain on breathing.

Compared to getting up from a bed and from a chair, there must be a lot less pain in the chest. I'm surprised they thought of this, way back in the 1940s. I wonder if they use these chairs for any other kinds of hospital patients?

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