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Fluoroscopy uses real-time X-ray imaging to view a body part in detail. A continuous X-ray beam passes through the area being examined and imaging is displayed on a monitor.

What Is Fluoroscopy?

Designed to observe motion, fluoroscopy allows for examination of the inner workings or movement of a body part or system, including the digestive, reproductive, urinary, skeletal and respiratory systems. This technology helps visualize individual organs, like the heart, lungs and kidneys.

The results help identify abnormalities or guide injections, biopsies for diagnostic purposes or catheterization. Fluoroscopy can be done alone or with contrast dye in order to see a system and its movement in even more detail. Fluoroscopy is key for:

  • Barium X-rays
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Arthrography to view a joint
  • Lumbar punctures
  • Placing an intravenous catheter into a vein or arteries
  • Intravenous pyelogram
  • Hysterosalpingogram
  • Biopsies
  • Joint and spine injections
  • Barium enemas
  • Enteroclysis
  • Interventional radiology and neuroradiology
  • Myelograms
  • Bowel and gastrointestinal imaging
  • Despite its benefits and range of applications, fluoroscopy can expose patients to varying degrees of radiation. Patients are advised to speak with their doctor about potential risks and should disclose if they are or think they may be pregnant.

    An allergic reaction to the contrast dye is another potential risk for certain patients. Those who previously had a negative reaction to an iodine-based or another contrast material should notify their doctor before agreeing to the procedure.

    When Is Fluoroscopy Used?

    Fluoroscopy is generally used for diagnostic procedures and to guide radiologists during select medical treatments. Solutions include:

    • Evaluating systems within the body, including the muscles, joints, bones, renal and cardiovascular systems
    • Barium X-rays to observe the movement of the intestines and gastrointestinal tract
    • Cardiac catheterization to see the movement of blood through the arteries to identify a blockage
    • Intravenous catheter insertion, in which this technology guides the catheter through the vessels, bile ducts or urinary system to a specific location
    • Identifying and locating foreign bodies
    • Placing a stent or another device within the body
    • Angiograms to better view organs and blood vessels
    • Orthopedic surgery, in which fluoroscopy identifies the location of a fracture or assists with more precise joint replacement

    Typically, fluoroscopy is an outpatient procedure performed without general anesthesia. In select cases, imaging may be part of an inpatient procedure involving sedation, for instance catheterization involving the heart or arteries or to align fractures.

    What to Expect During Fluoroscopy

    The fluoroscopy procedure is similar to an X-ray, however preparation depends on whether this imaging technology is used for diagnostic purposes or to assist with another procedure.

    Prior to the procedure, patients may be asked to take medication to reduce a potential allergic reaction. Based on what’s being observed, you may also be given specific instructions about what you can eat and drink ahead of time; fasting may be necessary.

    On the day of the procedure, you will be asked to remove anything metal that can interfere with the results, including jewelry, clothing with metal buttons and zippers, glasses and dental instruments. You should arrive in loose-fitting clothes or be prepared to wear a gown.

    As the procedure begins:

    • A contrast dye will be administered orally, by IV or enema, if being used.
    • As the imaging begins, you will be properly positioned on an X-ray table for improved viewing. Patients may be asked to hold their breath at times.
    • If fluoroscopy is being used to guide catheterization, a line will be inserted into your groin or another location.
    • A type of X-ray machine will be used to provide images of the area being observed.
    • If an IV was used, this line will be withdrawn after all imaging is complete. Patients should watch for any pain, swelling or redness around the insertion site.

    Recovery can vary based on the procedure. Patients may be able to resume everyday activities right after but in the case of catheterization, longer recovery is often required. Patients may remain in the hospital for a few hours or until sedation wears off.

    A radiologist will examine the results of your procedure and share them with your doctor, who will then reach out to you to discuss the findings and any follow-up procedures.
    Has your doctor recommended an imaging procedure involving fluoroscopy? Contact Midstate Radiology Associates to make an appointment today.