Where Radiology Meets PT: Strengthening the Link Between Musculoskeletal Diagnosis and Treatment

Successful recovery from a musculoskeletal injury is reliant upon accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment; however, these two areas of expertise are typically handled in two separate camps: radiology and physical medicine. Could patients benefit from bridging the gap between these two disciplines? MedRisk advisory board member Matthew Walsworth, MD, PT, weighs in.

The most recent addition to MedRisk’s International Scientific Advisory Board is a rare breed in the world of musculoskeletal medicine. Dr. Matthew Walsworth obtained a master’s degree in physical therapy from Baylor and went on to serve for 6 years as a physical therapist in the U.S. Army. He spent his days treating back and neck injuries, but, according to Walsworth, his role encompassed more than that.

“In the military, physical therapists are given a bit more autonomy as a point of direct care,” said Walsworth, referencing the enduring legislative and payer-imposed restrictions on PT as a direct point of access.

When Walsworth chose to leave the army and resume his life as a civilian, he decided to pursue a degree in medicine, in order to continue that direct care function. He had a hunch that his studies would lead him to a career in radiology, and he was right – although the realities of the position were at odds with his previous clinical experience.

“I enjoyed the diagnostic part of the job but soon realized that imaging often meant sitting in a dark room a good portion of the day. I missed that close interaction with patients,” Walsworth said.

This realization led Walsworth to pursue a fellowship in interventional radiology at UCLA, and, today, he splits his time between diagnosis and treatment as an interventional and diagnostic radiologist at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

When asked how his physical therapy background informs his radiology practice, Walsworth says it’s all about perspective.

“I am able to look at things a bit more functionally,” he said. “The imaging and the function don’t always correlate. I treat a lot of patients with peripheral artery disease who suffer from pain in their legs due to poor blood flow. I can make confident decisions about when to choose lifestyle modifications and when to opt for a given treatment because I have seen the results of both first hand.”

Walworth’s multidisciplinary approach embodies the goal of MedRisk’s international scientific advisory board. Made up of an elite panel of world-renowned specialists in physical medicine and electrodiagnostics, ISAB is charged with maintaining evidence-based clinical guidelines for all of MedRisk programs – and filling the gaps between diagnostic imaging and physical medicine with proactive oversight and innovative integrated solutions.

As for physical medicine at large, what does the future have in store?

“I’m hopeful,” says Walsworth. “As physical therapy grows as a field, there may be opportunity for PTs to become more autonomous, and for PTs and radiologists to collaborate and communicate more. Integration would be hugely beneficial to not only us as clinicians, but also to our patients.”

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