Phys Ther. 1992 Dec; 72(12): 875-84.
Clinical reasoning in manual therapy.
School of Physiotherapy, University of South Australia, Adelaide.
Clinical reasoning refers to the cognitive process or thinking used in the evaluation and management of a patient. In this article, clinical reasoning research and expert-novice studies are examined to provide insight into the growing understanding of clinical reasoning and the nature of expertise. Although hypothetico-deductive methods of reasoning are used by clinicians at all levels of experience, experts appear to possess a superior organization of knowledge. Experts often reach a diagnosis based on pure pattern recognition of clinical patterns. With an atypical problem, however, the expert, like the novice, appears to rely more on hypothetico-deductive clinical reasoning. Five categories of hypotheses are proposed for physical therapists using a hypothetico-deductive method of clinical reasoning. A model of the clinical reasoning process for physical therapists is presented to bring attention to the hypothesis generation, testing, and modification that I feel should take place through all aspects of the patient encounter. Examples of common errors in clinical reasoning are highlighted, and suggestions for facilitating clinical reasoning in our students are made.