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01-12-2021 | Research | Uitgave 1/2021 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2021

Exploring the use of musculoskeletal ultrasound imaging by podiatrists: an international survey

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2021
Charlotte Dando, Richard Ellis, Matthew Carroll, Prue Molyneux, Gabriel Gijon-Nogueron, Heidi J. Siddle, Lindsey Cherry, Alfred Gatt, Catherine Bowen
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13047-021-00478-4.

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Podiatrists, in musculoskeletal services, are demonstrating an expansion of their practice skills through the use of ultrasound imaging. There is an assumption that this practice is beneficial within the context of patient care and health systems. The aim of this research was to further investigate the use of musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSUS) by podiatrists within their clinical setting and gain additional insights into the impact that they perceive use of MSUS has on their approaches to management of musculoskeletal foot and ankle problems.


An international study utilising a cross-sectional design and an internet-based platform was undertaken. The survey was developed and implemented through three phases: 1. survey development, 2. face validity agreement via questionnaire review, and 3. survey distribution and data collection. Twenty-two survey questions were developed and set as a two-step approach collecting quantitative data (part 1) and qualitative free text data (part 2). Data was exported from SurveyMonkey and analysed using Microsoft Excel software. Counts and frequencies were calculated for responses to all twenty closed questions. Responses to the two final open-ended questions were analysed using thematic analysis to search for patterns related to podiatrists’ perceptions of impact.


Two hundred and thirty-two eligible participants consented to complete the survey. The majority (n = 159) of respondents were from the UK and Spain. Commonly MSUS has been used in practice for (i) diagnosing pathology, (ii) supporting rehabilitation, (iii) supporting interventions or (iv) research purposes. Most frequently, MSUS was used to assist in the diagnosis of injury/pathology (84%). A range of free text comments were received from the participants in response to the question relating to their thoughts on the impact of using MSUS imaging in their practice (n = 109) and on their perceptions of how the use of MSUS has influenced their approaches to management of their patients’ musculoskeletal foot and ankle problems (n = 108). Thematic analysis of the free text comments generated four themes: (i) diagnosis, (ii) delivery and access of care, (iii) patient education and engagement, and (iv) patient empowerment.


The perceived benefit podiatrists indicated in using MSUS as part of their practice is the perceived improvement in patient journeys through tighter, focused management plans and reduced waiting times. An additional novel finding was that MSUS provided the capacity for podiatrists to better inform patients of their diagnosis, which they believed led to improved engagement and consequent empowerment of patients in their treatment plans. We propose further investigation of patient experiences as well as testing of the model that embeds podiatrists’ use of MSUS as a key skill in musculoskeletal foot and ankle services.

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