The availability and usage frequency of real time ultrasound by physiotherapists in South Australia: an observational study

Physiother Res Int. 2008 Dec;13(4):231-40. doi: 10.1002/pri.409.


Background and purpose: Real time ultrasound (RTUS) is an emerging imaging modality in physiotherapy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is being used as an assessment and biofeedback tool for various deep core stabilizing muscles. However, how and why physiotherapists use RTUS in the clinical setting has not yet been reported. Therefore, this study aimed to establish the availability and usage frequency of RTUS by physiotherapists in South Australia. In addition, the study aimed to describe how physiotherapists were using RTUS and how they were educated in its use.

Method: A questionnaire was developed and mailed to all physiotherapists registered with the Physiotherapy Board of South Australia (n = 1328) between February and March 2007.

Results: A response rate of 50% was achieved with 664 completed usable questionnaires returned. At the current time, only a small proportion of respondents used RTUS (11.6%), while slightly more had access to a machine (19.4%). RTUS was used most commonly for assessment (88.3%) and biofeedback (87.0%) of the abdominal (94.7%), pelvic floor (72.7%) and multifidus (54.5%) muscles. Of all respondents, 26.7% had trained in its use with most completing two hours or less of training.

Conclusions: This is the first published study to describe how and why physiotherapists are using RTUS in clinical practice. RTUS appears to be a relatively uncommon modality potentially limited by insufficient access to equipment and educational opportunities. The findings highlight a greater need for education and training in the use of RTUS for physiotherapy practice.

MeSH terms

  • Biofeedback, Psychology
  • Computer Systems
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • South Australia
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultrasonic Therapy
  • Ultrasonography* / statistics & numerical data