Fluoroscopy FAQs

Fluoroscopy is an X-ray procedure that captures moving images in the body. It allows doctors to evaluate the functioning of almost all the body's systems, including the cardiovascular, urinary, digestive, respiratory, musculoskeletal and reproductive. In addition to being used as a diagnostic tool, fluoroscopy is often used therapeutically, and to assist in complicated surgical procedures.

What are the reasons for fluoroscopy?

Fluoroscopy is commonly used to examine the blood vessels for signs of coronary artery disease, or to diagnose digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis, gastrointestinal tumors, internal bleeding or bowel obstruction. It is also used as imaging guidance during diagnostic and treatment procedures such as placing a catheter; inserting a needle for biopsy; collecting fluid during a spinal tap; or assisting in the visualization of a joint during anesthetic injections.

What is the preparation for fluoroscopy?

Unlike a simple X-ray, fluoroscopy requires administration of a contrast substance called barium, which coats and highlights the targeted area. Depending on which part of the body is being examined, barium is administered in different ways. If the upper digestive tract is being evaluated, barium is swallowed. If the lower digestive tract is being evaluated, a barium enema is administered. Barium can also be dispensed through a catheter, intravenously.

What happens during fluoroscopy?

During fluoroscopy, the patient is positioned on an examination table, and with the targeted area of the body exposed. A special X-ray scanner captures images of targeted area, including internal vessels and organs. The patient is usually asked to assume different positions during fluoroscopy. The exact steps of the procedure depend on the area of the body being examined, and the procedure being performed.

What are the benefits of fluoroscopy?

Fluoroscopy is the only type of imaging procedure that captures real-time moving images of the body's internal organs. It enables doctors to get a visual image of areas of the body that cannot be seen from X-ray alone. With the aid of a fluoroscope, complex conditions can be diagnosed. Fluoroscopy is also extremely beneficial in guiding doctors as they perform procedures that require precision.

Are there any risks to fluoroscopy?

As with any process involving radiation, there is some risk, although the risk from fluoroscopy is statistically small. When the procedure is longer, as when a stent is placed, risk increases. Risks of radiation exposure include burns to the skin and underlying tissue. There is also some risk that the patient will develop a radiation-precipitated malignancy later in life.

Because of possible risk to a fetus or infant, a pregnant or nursing mother is advised not to undergo fluoroscopy.

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