What Is Diathermy?
Diathermy is a therapeutic treatment most commonly
prescribed for joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
In diathermy, a high-frequency electric current is delivered via shortwave,
microwave, or ultrasound to generate deep heat in body tissues.
The heat can be used to increase blood flow or to
Diathermy also can be used as a surgical tool to seal
off blood vessels or destroy abnormal cells.
What Does Diathermy Do?
Diathermy uses an
electric current to produce heat deep inside a targeted tissue. It can reach
areas as deep as two inches from the skin’s surface.
machine does not apply heat directly to the body. Instead, the current from the
machine allows the body to generate heat from within the targeted tissue.
As the heat increases,
it promotes blood flow. It also can help improve flexibility in stiff joints
and connective tissue.
pain and inflammation, patients with arthritis can increase their range of
motion. This may allow them to move more easily and participate in
rehabilitation more comfortably.
procedures, a diathermy electrode can be applied to a blood vessel. The heat generated
in the vessel will cause the blood to coagulate and the vessel to be cauterized
Diathermy is also effective
in removing abnormal growths, such as tumors, in procedures where traditional
techniques are impractical. Surgical diathermy is used in many areas, including
the prostate, bladder, cervix, brain, ovaries, bowels, eyes, and tonsils.
Who Benefits from
benefits patients who have pain from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or
other musculoskeletal conditions. It is also used to treat discomfort from
kidney stones or sinusitis.
However, if you
have implanted metal devices, cancer, reduced skin sensation, peripheral
vascular disease, or one of several other contraindications, you may not be an
appropriate candidate for this treatment.
What Are the Types of Diathermy?
are three main types of diathermy: shortwave, microwave, and ultrasound.
diathermy uses high-frequency electromagnetic energy to generate heat. It may
be applied in pulsed or continuous energy waves. It is used to treat pain from
sinusitis, kidney stones, and pelvic infections. It is effective for conditions
that cause pain and muscle spasms.
diathermy uses microwaves to generate heat in the body. It can be used to
evenly warm deep tissues without heating the skin. Since it can’t penetrate
deep muscles, it is best suited for areas that are closer to the skin, such as
diathermy uses sound waves to treat deep tissues. Heat is generated by the
vibration of the tissue. This promotes blood flow into the area. It is used for
many types of musculoskeletal sprains, strains, and fractures.
What Are the
Side Effects of Diathermy?
electromagnetic energy used in diathermy can cause extreme heat in metal
devices such as bone pins, dental fillings, and metal sutures. This could cause
burns in adjacent tissues.
diathermy treatment, the patient becomes a part of the electrical field. Touching
a bare metal object, such as a cabinet, during diathermy can cause a shock or
How Is Diathermy Administered?
Diathermy is administered by many types of
health care providers, depending on the purpose of the treatment. Physicians,
surgeons, dentists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and sports therapists
use the technique.
is usually part of a complete physical therapy or rehabilitative regimen. Frequency and length
of treatments vary.
What Are the Steps?
on the type of diathermy and the location of the affected area, the patient
lies on a table or sits in a chair during the procedure.
undergoing ultrasonic diathermy have a cream or gel applied to the affected
area. In shortwave and microwave diathermy, the affected area may be wrapped in
a towel to avoid direct contact between the skin and the electrodes.
shortwave and microwave diathermy, two electrodes are positioned near the
affected area. In ultrasound diathermy, a therapist moves a wand continuously
over the affected area.
patient is asked to remain still while the treatment is being administered. The
patient feels a warm or tingling sensation during the treatment.
diathermy, rehabilitative exercises are sometimes encouraged. These can make
the most of the added range of motion and flexibility brought by the treatment.
What Are the Benefits of Diathermy?
is used to produce heat in deep tissues in many parts of the body. In cases of
injury or pain, the intense heat may provide pain relief and better
flexibility. It can reduce inflammation, increase circulation, and accelerate
can be effective in providing some relief and treatment of symptoms related to:
- back pain
- muscle spasms
- sprains and strains
- bone injuries
surgical uses, diathermy can be used to seal blood vessels and remove tumors or
other abnormal growths. It can reduce blood loss and allow for reduced recovery
What are the Risks of Diathermy?
with implanted metal devices, such as a pacemaker, a prosthesis, or an intrauterine
device (IUD), may be at risk for injury if they undergo any type of diathermy. The
risk of injury also exists in areas that are moist or filled with fluid.
may be advised to avoid diathermy if they have any of the following conditions:
- implanted metal devices
- peripheral vascular disease
- tissue with restricted blood supply (ischemia)
- numbed or infected areas
- unhealed bones
- bleeding disorders
- severe heart, liver, or kidney conditions
- low skin sensation
- wound dressings
- areas of moist skin
is not considered safe for certain areas of the body. These include the eyes,
brain, ears, spinal cord, heart, reproductive organs, and genitalia.
How Does a Patient Prepare for Diathermy?
metal jewelry, clothing, and accessories must be removed before a diathermy
session. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure. You also may be
asked to wear goggles.
What Is the Outlook After Diathermy?
a diathermy treatment, the affected area may feel more flexible. The patient
might be able to participate in physical therapy behaviors more comfortably and
for a longer period of time.
increased blood flow to the affected area may induce healing and tissue repair.
used in surgery, diathermy may result in less blood loss and faster recovery
What Are the Results of Diathermy?
pain and inflammation with heat can increase blood flow and make connective
tissue more flexible. It can help minimize inflammation and reduce the incidence
of fluid retention, or edema (The Merck Home Health
increasing blood flow to the site of an injury, the deep heat generated with
diathermy can accelerate healing. It is most effective in joints, muscles, and
tendons. However, the risk for burns is significant when used over moist or
fluid-filled areas, or areas containing metal objects. Therefore, its use
should be avoided in these circumstances (St. Vincent Health System).