Short-wave diathermy: current clinical and safety practices Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:Short-wave diathermy (SWD) is widely available, yet a comprehensive examination of current clinical practice remains absent from the literature. The present paper aims to assess clinical and safety issues in continuous (CSWD) and pulsed (PSWD) short-wave diathermy application and subsequently indicate areas for future research. METHOD:A postal survey was carried out among 116 senior physiotherapists in 41 Irish hospital-based physiotherapy departments. RESULTS:The response rate to the study was 75%. Analysis found that PSWD was the preferred mode of treatment with 27% of respondents using it more than once daily. Respondents considered both modes of treatment indicated for a variety of conditions. CSWD was rated as an effective treatment for chronic osteoarthritis, polyarthritis, non-specific arthrosis and haematomas. PSWD was reported an effective modality for acute soft tissue injury, haematomas, acute osteoarthritis, sinusitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Dose selection varied greatly but tended to be based on the type, nature and duration of the condition. Analysis of safety practices uncovered concerning findings. Although a high level of agreement was found on measures for patient safety, 30% of respondents reported that no measures for operator safety were taken and only five respondents stated they remained a specified distance from SWD equipment. Measures to ensure the safety of other personnel in the physiotherapy department were also lacking. CONCLUSIONS:Given the availability of SWD equipment and its apparent efficacy in certain conditions, future research should aim to establish this by means of controlled clinical trials. The findings on safety practices underline the urgent need for comprehensive guidelines to ensure the safety of operators, patients and the general public during SWD application.

publication date

  • November 2002