Total Body Hydraulic Lift Usage

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Total body hydraulic lift usage


Devices used to transfer patients from a bed to a wheelchair, bedside commode, bathtub, etc. are known as total body, or Hoyer, lifts. (Hoyer was one of the first companies to manufacture the lifts, which are still known by that name.)


Total body hydraulic lifts are typically used with patients who cannot bear weight, have physical limitations such as amputations or quadriplegia, or who are extremely heavy and cannot be safely transferred by members of the health care team or the patient's caregivers. These portable lifts support all of the patient's weight using a sling that is attached to a stand on wheels.


Several precautions should be taken prior to using a total body lift. The weight capacity of the lift should be taken into consideration before using it with any patient.

Proper positioning of the sling must be insured, as well as proper positioning of the patient, maintaining good body alignment.


Total body lifts are used in many maximal assistance patient transfers. Most lifts work through hydraulic devices that involve pumping or cranking the lift by hand. Many of the newer lifts, however, have an electric motor that is controlled by a hand control, eliminating the need for hand pumping. Consisting of a metal frame with a heavy canvas swing capable of suspending the patient, total body lifts are often a safer patient transferring option for both the patient and the caregiver.

When a patient is manually lifted, the health care professional or other caregiver must rely on their own strength to carry out the transfer. This frequently means that the caregiver is working beyond their physical capabilities. This increases the risk for mishandling or even dropping the patient during a manual lift. The majority of Hoyer lifts used are quite stable, require little force to move the lift with the patient in it, and are designed with slings that decrease the potential for skin tears or abrasions. In addition, most lifts can be operated by one person, which can free up other staff members to care for other patients.

The health care professional or other patient caregiver can safely transfer a patient utilizing a total body, or Hoyer, lift by following these steps:

  • Assess the patient's weight, making sure it falls within the weight limits of the particular lift being used.
  • Obtain assistance from another caregiver if needed. Move the lift to the bedside and the object the patient is being transferred into to a convenient location.
  • Raise the bed. Turn the patient on the side and place the canvas sling under the body, from head to knees.
  • Instruct the patient to keep the arms crossed over the body. Position the lift with the legs spread and under the bed. Attach the lift chains to the sling, and adjust the sling, evenly distributing the patient's weight.
  • Raise the lift, elevating the sling just off of the bed.
  • Maneuver the patient's legs over the side of the bed. Insure that the patient's head and extremities are protected from injury.
  • Guide the lift over the object so the patient is positioned appropriately. Release the lift valve slowly, and lower the patient. Release the lift chains.


Hoyer lift —Hoyer was one of the first manufacturers to make portable total body lifts, and the devices continue to be called by that name.


Prior to transferring a patient using a total body lift, instruct the patient on the procedure, and how he or she can assist by keeping their arms folded.


Assess the patient after the transfer is completed, noting how the patient tolerated the procedure.

Health care team roles

Many members of the health care team may use a total body lift to transfer a patient, including nurses and nursing assistants, and physical therapists. Health care professionals are responsible for knowing how to correctly and safely use the lift device to transfer patients.



Goldsmith, Connie. "Watch Your Back." Nurseweek (January 8, 2001).

Owen, Bernice Dr. "Preventing Injuries Using an Ergonomic Approach." AORN Journal (December 2000).


Simonton, Kevin, and Dana Wilcox. "Frequently Asked Questions About Portable Total Body Patient/Resident Lifts" Department of Labor and Industries: Nursing Home Initiative.<>.

Deanna M. Swartout-Corbeil, R.N.