University of Oregon

Department of Human Physiology Graduate Studies in Athletic Training and Sports Medicine

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Evidence Based Practice: Therapeutic ultrasound: an unproven modality

Kat Kaihoi MS, ATC

Citation: Robertson VJ, Baker KG. A review of therapeutic ultrasound: effectiveness studies. Phys Ther. 2001;81:1339-1350.

Clinical Question: Is therapeutic ultrasound an effective modality for treating musculoskeletal disorders when compared to sham or placebo ultrasound?

Data Sources: Relevant randomized controlled trials were identified by examining physical therapy journals from 1975 to 1999, searching MEDLINE and CINAHL, reading recent review articles and reference lists, and consulting with colleagues.

Study Selection: The authors examined randomized controlled trials published between 1975 and 1999 that used ultrasound to treat musculoskeletal injuries or promote soft tissue healing. The authors identified 35 trials that investigated the contributions of active and placebo ultrasound to specific patient outcome measures. Only trials that were designed to identify specific clinical effects of therapeutic ultrasound intervention were selected. The authors rejected eight articles that used multiple interventions or were not conducted in clinical settings on pathological conditions, making treatment effectiveness impossible to determine.

Conclusions: The majority of methodologically adequate evidence investigating the efficacy of therapeutic ultrasound suggests that it does not effectively contribute to positive patient outcomes when compared to placebo treatments.