Using real-time U/S imaging as a teaching tools to enhance PT students ability to perform therapy on the knee

Often, physical therapy students struggle with the skill and the confidence to perform manual techniques for musculoskeletal examination. Current teaching methods lack concurrent objective feedback. Real-time ultrasound imaging (RTUI) has the advantage of generating visualization of anatomical structures in real-time in an efficient and safe manner. The authors hypothesize that the use of RTUI to augment teaching with concurrent objective visual feedback will result in students’ improved ability to create a change in joint space when performing a manual knee traction and higher confidence scores.

Eighty-six students were randomly allocated to a control or an experimental group. All participants received baseline instructions on how to perform knee traction. The control group received standardized lab instruction (visual, video, and instructor/partner feedback). The experimental group received standardized lab instruction augmented with RTUI feedback. Pre-data and post-data collection consisted of measuring participants’ ability to create changes in joint space when performing knee traction, a confidence survey evaluating perceived ability and a reflection paper. Joint space changes between groups were compared using a paired t-test. Surveys were analyzed with descriptive statistics and compared using Wilcoxon Rank Sum and for the reflection papers, themes were identified and descriptive statistics reported.

Although there were no statistically significant differences between the control and the experimental group, overall scores improved. Qualitative data suggests students found the use of ultrasound imaging beneficial and would like more exposure. This novel approach to teaching knee traction with RTUI has potential and may be a basis for further studies.