So you’ve been told you will need to stay off your foot or ankle for an extended period of time. This could be due to surgery, injury or a wound. If you’ve used crutches you know how difficult they can be to use and the limitations they put on your lifestyle. Don’t be condemned to crutches. You have choices. Perhaps your healthcare provider suggested a knee scooter or a knee walker. You’ve searched the Internet and are left with even more questions.
This article will outline what a knee scooter is, features to consider with the device and services to consider with the supplier.
What is a Knee Scooter
A Knee Scooter is a wheeled cart-like device that completely unloads (takes weight off) the user’s lower limb as they bear weight on their knee. It is also commonly referred to as a knee walker.
Features to Consider:
While all knee scooters are similar in basic function there are important design features that directly impact safety, comfort and mobility.
- Does it turn? The original model required the user to lift the front to pivot left or right. Not only did this take strength, but balance which can often be compromised due to medications (i.e. painkillers). Newer models turn like a bicycle to improve safety and ease of use. This feature is so vital that some insurance companies will not reimburse for non-steerable (non-turning) models and many suppliers no longer offer them. Beware of models that use caster like wheels similar to those found on a shopping cart (www.rolleraid.com) as these can unexpectedly move sideways (laterally away from you), causing your legs to split apart and maybe even fall.
- How big are the wheels? The bigger the wheels, the easier it will be to move through carpet or over uneven surfaces like cracks in the sidewalks or thresholds of a doorway. Small wheels will stop abruptly when they encounter a crack or obstacle. Some insurance companies will not cover units with wheels smaller than five inches in diameter. Large or fat off road tires are available but are rarely necessary as they are intended for rough terrain or for soft sand. The ideal standard is the eight-inch wheels.
- How stable is the unit? Safety is paramount in any unit. Stability comes from both the width of the unit and the offset of the knee platform. The higher-end models allow the knee platform to be easily offset towards your good leg. Not only does this allow more of the unit to support your injured leg, it also keeps your pushing leg from kicking the knee scooter (an annoying, painful and potential danger). Width can be judged by the separation of the front wheels, although wider is not always better. You will find units so wide they won’t fit through a doorway (Kneal) or so narrow as to be unstable (Invacare).
- How adjustable and comfortable are the knee pads? Your needs can change as your cast or dressing is adjusted, so it is important to look for a unit with two adjustable pads. The ability to adjust the location of the pad can greatly affect your comfort. Avoid units that only offer a single fixed pad (Kneal or Wiel).
- Does it fold down for easy storage? Most units will fold for easy storage and transportation. They can be put in the back seat of a car, a trunk or even in the first class closet on an airplane. Beware the very large units (Kneal) that are too big for most cars and any plane.
- Do I need tools to assemble? Make sure that the knee scooter can be adjusted without tools. Amazingly enough, some models (Invacare) and especially older units require wrenches (not included) to adjust for your height and size.
- What accessories are included? Think of what you might need: a purse, phone, book, lunch, laundry, etc. Some knee scooters offer small black bags while others provide large removable baskets. Both could be helpful to free your hands while moving, but the removable basket has proven to be more useful and versatile.
Services to Consider
Now that you know what to look for in the product, consider the supplier as both price and service can vary greatly.
- Rent or buy – If you only need the unit a short time, renting might be an option. Rental prices range from $35 to $80 a week and $100 to $300 a month. Deposits can be very costly, up to the full purchase price of the knee scooter. Look for suppliers that don’t charge a deposit. Some suppliers will allow you to apply rental charges to the purchase should you need it longer than you first thought. Purchase price of a new unit ranges from $400 to $800. If purchasing makes sense, you might consider a used or refurbished unit. Make sure it is safe and meets all the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Insurance – Insurance companies generically refer to knee scooters as Crutch Alternatives under HCPCs Code E0118. They may cover them for patients who must keep weight off of their healing foot or ankle AND are unable to use crutches due to balance issues, upper body limitation or other issues. While some suppliers will bill your insurance company, many will provide you with a blank Letter of Medical Necessity for your doctor to complete. This will help you in submitting for consideration of reimbursement. Even if the knee scooter is not a paid benefit, it may count towards your deductible or be able to be charged to your healthcare spending account
- Delivery and Return – You could try to find a local supplier with knee scooters in stock. Styles, price, quality and service vary greatly. Availability is limited and you could be placed on a waiting list. Even after you find a supplier it could require three visits to their location during their business hours to order, pick up and return the unit. Some stores will deliver to your home or hospital for a fee. An increasingly attractive option is ordering online and having the knee scooter shipped directly to your home, office or hospital room. Look for suppliers that offer free shipping. Once back on both feet, units can be easily returned via UPS or USPS mail. Having your knee scooter shipped directly to you is especially convenient if you are already injured, can’t drive, live in a rural location, have a busy schedule or other limitations.
- Satisfaction Guarantee – Make sure you can return any knee scooter you rent or buy if it doesn’t fit your needs. Be cautious of suppliers that don’t even allow you to try it outside or offer less than a three day trial period.
- Customer Service – When using your knee scooter and you have a question or a need (which you will), who will you call? Working with an expert that specializes in crutch alternatives should ensure a better experience offering knowledgeable staff available to answer questions and share tips. You may be alone with a “big box” supplier that has everything from beds to bedpans, with business hours that don’t coincide with your needs.
In summary, look for these for an ideal recovery:
- 8″ wheels
- No deposit
- Offset knee platform
- Free, convenient shipping
- Two adjustable knee pads
- Rental fees apply to purchase
- Folds for transportation and storage
- Satisfaction guarantee
- No tools needed adjustment
- Customer service
- Large removable basket
- Crutch Alternative Specialist
Recovering from surgery or injury can be a trying time and full of unexpected challenges. Choosing a knee scooter that helps you stay off your foot or ankle may help you heal more quickly, more completely and more correctly. Choosing the knee scooter that best fits your individual needs from the supplier that serves you best will allow you to maintain your active life, your lifestyle and your livelihood.