An evaluation of safety guidelines to restrict exposure to stray radiofrequency radiation from short-wave diathermy units Academic Article uri icon


  • Short-wave diathermy (SWD), a form of radiofrequency radiation used therapeutically by physiotherapists, may be applied in continuous (CSWD) or pulsed (PSWD) mode using either capacitive or inductive methods. Stray radiation emitted by these units may exceed exposure guidelines close to the equipment. Discrepant guidelines exist on a safe distance from an operating unit for operators and other personnel. Stray electric (E-field) and magnetic (H-field) field strengths from 10 SWD units in six departments were examined using a PMM 8053 meter and two isotropic probes (EP-330, HP-032). A 5 l saline phantom completed the patient circuit. Measurements were recorded in eight directions between 0.5 m and 2 m at hip and eye levels while the units operated at maximum output and data compared to current guidelines. Results found stray fields from capacitive CSWD fell below operator limits at 2 m (E-field 4.8-39.8 V/m; H-field 0.015-0.072 A/m) and at 1 m for inductive CSWD (E-field 0-36 V/m; H-field 0.01-0.065 A/m). Capacitive PSWD fields fell below the limits at 1.5 m (E-field 1.2-19.9 V/m; H-field 0.002-0.045 A/m) and at 1m for inductive PSWD (E-field 0.74.0 V/m; H-field 0.009-0.03 A/m). An extra 0.5 m was required before fields fell below the guidelines for other personnel. These results demonstrate, under a worst case scenario, emissions from SWD exceed the guidelines for operators at distances currently recommended as safe. Future guidelines should include recommendations for personnel other than physiotherapists.

publication date

  • July 7, 2004