Development and application of a quality control procedure for short-wave diathermy units Academic Article uri icon


  • Short-wave diathermy (SWD) is a form of radiofrequency (RF) radiation, operating at 27.12 MHz, that is used therapeutically by physiotherapists. Although this form of therapy is widely available, the management of the equipment is not often addressed by either physiotherapists or by medical physics/clinical engineering. A quality control protocol for SWD units, examining power output and electrical and mechanical condition, was developed and applied to 20 units used in clinical practice. In addition, an environmental assessment of where the units were used was also included. Results showed that the power output was generally stable (coefficient of variation range 0-8.8%) and reproducible (coefficient of variation range 0-6.8%). When the outputs from 12 similar units were compared, it was found that the relationship between the units' intensity settings and power output measurements was non-linear. Two units with mechanical timers were found to have inaccuracies that could contribute, under a 'worst-case' scenario, to a dosage error of up to 45%. Environmental analysis found that all treatment plinths in use contained metal parts, which could constitute a fire hazard, and no department examined was equipped with an RF screened room, a facility that would ensure that other persons in the vicinity were not exposed to excessive stray radiation.

publication date

  • January 2003