Review article| Volume 85, ISSUE 6, P1006-1012, June 2004

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Contraindications for superficial heat and therapeutic ultrasound: do sources agree?1

  • Mitchell Batavia
    Reprint requests to Mitchell Batavia, PhD, PT, Dept of Physical Therapy, New York University, 380 Second Ave, 4th Fl, New York, NY 10010, USA
    Department of Physical Therapy, Steinhardt School of Education, New York University, New York, NY, USA
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      Batavia M. Contraindications for superficial heat and therapeutic ultrasound: do sources agree? Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2004;85:1006-12.


      To determine the amount of agreement among general rehabilitation sources for both superficial heating and therapeutic ultrasound contraindications.

      Data sources

      English-language textbook and peer-reviewed journal sources, from January 1992 to July 2002. Searches of computerized databases (HealthSTAR, CINAHL, MEDLINE, Embase) as well as Library of Congress Online Catalogs, Books in Print, and AcqWeb’s Directory of Publishers and Venders.

      Data selection

      Sources were excluded if they (1) were published before 1992, (2) failed to address general rehabilitation audiences, or (3) were identified as a researcher’s related publication with similar information on the topic.

      Data extraction

      Type and number of contraindications, type of audience, year of publication, number of references, rationales, and alternative treatment strategies.

      Data synthesis

      Eighteen superficial heat and 20 ultrasound sources identified anywhere from 5 to 22 and 9 to 36 contraindications/precautions, respectively. Agreement among sources was generally high but ranged from 11% to 95%, with lower agreement noted for pregnancy, metal implants, edema, skin integrity, and cognitive/communicative concerns. Seventy-two percent of superficial heat sources and 25% of ultrasound sources failed to reference at least 1 contraindication claim.


      Agreement among contraindication sources was generally good for both superficial heat and therapeutic ultrasound. Sources varied with regard to the number of contraindications, references, and rationales cited. Greater reliance on objective data and standardized classification systems may serve to develop more uniform guidelines for superficial heat and therapeutic ultrasound.


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