What is the Trendelenburg position and why do we use it?

*PLEASE NOTE: We are healthcare equipment suppliers, and therefore are not qualified to give any clinical or medical advice.*

The Trendelenburg position is something that crops up regularly when it comes to hospital beds. Based on the principle of having the patient’s body laid back on a 15 to 30 angle with the feet higher than the head, it was originally thought up as a solution to give easier access during surgery.

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History of the Trendelenburg Position

Apart from being a rather long word, it actually has quite a history behind it. Thought up by German Surgeon Friedrich Trendelenburg, this tilt was brought into practice for a number of controversial treatments.

There is a severe lack of research into the benefits of the Trendelenburg position; some research actually shows that its benefits do not outweigh its downfalls.

The position was used in World War I to treat shock in the hopes of increasing blood perfusion to vital organs – however, it has since been rebuked for its failure to show any signs of effectiveness.

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How we use the Trendelenburg Position today

On the other hand, the Trendelenburg position does have its specialist uses.

For instance, it’s incredibly useful in cardiothoracic surgery for a variety of reasons. It’s also handy to assist with placing a central venous line.

One of its main benefits, however, is its use to stimulate blood perfusion in patients with respiratory problems.

The Anti-Trendelenburg position, also known as the Reverse-Trendelenburg position, is quite self-explanatory; the head is elevated 15 to 30 degrees higher than the feet. Laid on their back, the patient is positioned for surgeries where increased exposure is needed in areas like the prostate and upper abdominal region.

The Anti-Trendelenburg position can be used to increase respiratory function in overweight and obese patients by relieving pressure to the head. That being said, there are risks of hypotension and reduced blood flow to the brain, neck and genital area.

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When it comes to its inclusion in care beds, the Trendelenburg feature isn’t necessarily used for anything remotely like the above reasons. These positions are usually used simply to allow the patient to sit up or raise their legs whilst in bed.

Giving the user positioning control, the Trendelenburg feature is included in care beds for extra comfort and support. Individuals with restricted mobility use the Trendelenburg position day-in-day-out to allow themselves to be comfortable.

Similarly, the Anti-Trendelenburg position is included in care beds to allow the individual’s legs to be lifted. This is especially useful for those who have conditions with restricted blood flow to the feet.

But, like the history of the Trendelenburg position, these features have their downfalls. It is encouraged that patients do not spend large lengths of time in these positions.

It is important that when it comes to users with dementia or reduced mental ability, the Trendelenburg features are controlled by the caregiver. With that in mind, some care beds – like the Interlude – are now fitted with a locking handset that will only be activated at the carer’s authorisation.

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Summary

All in all, the history of the Trendelenburg position is rather fascinating – it’s certainly been a somewhat problematic method! But its prominence in the medical world is now limited to long-term postural care and a few other rare situations.

With that in mind, healthcare professionals probably see this position (or its Reverse option) being used every day but in controlled doses. It’s safe to say surmise that the initial uses of the Trendelenburg position are now outdated, with more effective practices in place.