Ohio physical therapists' accuracy in identifying abnormalities on diagnostic images with and without a clinical vignette.


Journal Article

BACKGROUND: A strong understanding of diagnostic imaging has been advocated for physical therapists. There have been recent changes in physical therapy curricula and increased opportunities to utilize imaging during clinical practice. PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to explore the ability of practicing clinicians to accurately identify selected musculoskeletal conditions on plain-film radiograph (X-ray), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography scan (CT scan). Further, to determine whether improvements in identification of pathology occur when the clinical scenario is added to the imaging and whether there are related training/exposure factors. METHODS: A cross- sectional electronic survey was sent out to physical therapists in the state of Ohio. Participants were asked to identify conditions (cervical fracture, anterior cruciate ligament tear, and avascular necrosis of the femoral head) first given diagnostic images only, and then given the images and a clinical scenario. RESULTS: Eight hundred sixty-six surveys of the 7537 sent out were eligible for analysis. With clinical scenarios, 61.3% of respondents were correct with the ACL injury identified on MRI, 36.4% for identification of the cervical spine fracture on CT and 25.6% for identification of avascular necrosis on plain film. The accuracy significantly improved (p<0.01) with the addition of the clinical information for all three of the diagnoses. The most remarkable improvement was seen with the AVN diagnosis on plain film radiograph (365.5% improvement), followed by the ACL injury on MRI (27.2% improvement) and cervical fracture diagnosis on CT scan (17.8% improvement). Finally, formal and informal training, board certification through the APTA and to a lesser extent, degree level, all improved diagnostic accuracy. CONCLUSIONS: A clinical scenario paired with images notably improved identification of pathology. Physical therapists were better at identifying the ACL pathology that was presented on MRI. This is a common diagnosis to physical therapists and was paired with a relatively common imaging modality. This study suggests that physical therapists can improve accuracy with identifying pathologies on diagnostic images through a physical therapy curriculum or post-graduation through certifications and continuing education. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level 4.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Morris, A; Cook, C; Hassen, A

Published Date

  • October 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 9 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 674 - 690

PubMed ID

  • 25328830

Pubmed Central ID

  • 25328830

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2159-2896


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States