Bariatric Seating: Assessing the Needs of Plus-Size Patients

CEO Khai Intela
Introduction When it comes to selecting the right bariatric chair for plus-size patients, healthcare professionals face numerous challenges. In this second part of our Bariatric Seating Series, we will explore the key considerations involved in...


When it comes to selecting the right bariatric chair for plus-size patients, healthcare professionals face numerous challenges. In this second part of our Bariatric Seating Series, we will explore the key considerations involved in assessing a plus-size patient for the most suitable bariatric chair. By understanding these considerations, healthcare professionals can ensure that they meet the specific needs of their patients, promoting enablement, choice, and dignity.

Meeting the Patient's Needs

Assessment is the cornerstone of selecting the right bariatric chair. However, it's essential to consider the complex needs of plus-size patients during this process. Some key factors to consider include:

  • Patient's preferences: It is crucial to involve the patient in the decision-making process to provide them with the appropriate equipment that meets their requirements and preserves their dignity.

  • Patient's goals: Different patients have different goals, such as mobilization, falls prevention, comfort, respiratory management, and more. Understanding these goals will influence the choice of a bariatric chair.

  • Patient's measurements: Accurate measurements of height, shape, size, and weight are vital to ensure the chair fits the patient properly. Incorrect measurements can lead to discomfort, pressure damage, and an increased risk of falls.

  • Changing needs: Plus-size patients may require different chair positions throughout the day to address varying physical and psychological needs. Adaptable chairs that cater to these changing requirements are ideal.

  • Long-term needs: It's essential to consider whether the selected bariatric chair will remain suitable if the patient's mobility improves or deteriorates over time.

  • Environmental limitations: Room size, placement of other furniture, and the ability of caregivers to work safely around the chair are crucial environmental factors to consider during the assessment.

Seat Width, Depth, and Height

Properly measuring the patient is key to determining the dimensions of the bariatric chair. The chair should be wide enough to accommodate the patient comfortably without exerting excessive pressure on the thighs and hips. Simultaneously, it should provide enough depth for the patient to sit fully back, allowing the back of their knees to touch the seat and minimizing the risk of falling forwards. Additionally, the seat height should align with the patient's popliteal height, ensuring their feet can rest flat on the floor for safe mobilization and a reduced risk of falls.

Popliteal height Popliteal height.


An easily reconfigurable bariatric chair can accommodate the frequently changing needs of plus-size patients. For example, a riser-recliner chair can provide calf elevation for managing edema, an upright position for meals, assisted standing, and a reclined backrest with an elevated calf section for resting. Adjustable leg height ensures the chair's seat height aligns accurately with the patient's popliteal height. A tilt-in-space chair allows for changes in sitting angle while maintaining a fully seated position, providing extra comfort, upright positioning benefits, and pressure redistribution.

Arm Rests

The width, firmness, and height of arm rests play a significant role in safe mobilization and transfers for plus-size patients. A static chair with drop-down arms can facilitate lateral transfers, while sturdy wooden arms offer a reliable grip for easier mobilization. Ensuring that the arm rests are neither too high nor too far apart allows for safer and more comfortable mobilization. Certain chairs, such as tilt-in-space models, offer the flexibility to splay the arm rests out, providing additional comfort and space.

Static, riser-recliner, and tilt-in-space bariatric chairs Static, riser-recliner, and tilt-in-space bariatric chairs.

Safe Working Load

To guarantee patient safety, it is crucial not to exceed the bariatric chair's safe working load, which requires accurately measuring the patient's weight. Additionally, considering the weight capacity of individual sections of the chair is important. For example, a riser-recliner chair may have weight limits on specific sections that could be exceeded by the patient's legs and abdomen.

In summary, assessing a plus-size patient for a bariatric chair involves multiple considerations. Healthcare professionals must understand the patient's needs, take accurate measurements, select a chair with appropriate dimensions, consider configurability and arm rests, and ensure adherence to safe working load guidelines. By providing the right equipment at the right time, healthcare professionals can improve clinical outcomes and enhance the physical and psychological well-being of their patients.

View our Bariatric Chairs & Accessories.


  1. Martindale D (2021) Calculating bed height for hospital patients using popliteal measurement. Nursing Times [online]; 117: 10. Accessed online 17/01/2021.