Fluoroscopy is a study of moving body structures--similar to an X-ray "movie." A continuous X-ray beam is passed through the body part being examined. The beam is transmitted to a TV-like monitor so that the body part and its motion can be seen in detail. Fluoroscopy, as an imaging tool, enables doctors to look at many body systems, including the skeletal, digestive, urinary, respiratory, and reproductive systems.
Fluoroscopy may be performed to evaluate specific areas of the body, including the bones, muscles, and joints, as well as solid organs such as the heart, lung, or kidneys.
Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose problems of the bones, muscles, or joints include X-rays, myelography (myelogram), computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and arthrography. Please see these procedures for additional information.
Fluoroscopy is used in many types of examinations and procedures, such as barium X-rays, cardiac catheterization, arthrography (visualization of a joint or joints), lumbar puncture, placement of intravenous (IV) catheters (hollow tubes inserted into veins or arteries), intravenous pyelogram, hysterosalpingogram, and biopsies.
Fluoroscopy may be used alone as a diagnostic procedure, or may be used in conjunction with other diagnostic or therapeutic media or procedures.
In barium X-rays, fluoroscopy used alone allows the doctor to see the movement of the intestines as the barium moves through them. In cardiac catheterization, fluoroscopy is used as an adjunct to enable the doctor to see the flow of blood through the coronary arteries in order to evaluate the presence of arterial blockages. For intravenous catheter insertion, fluoroscopy assists the physician in guiding the catheter into a specific location inside the body.
Other uses of fluoroscopy include, but are not limited to, the following:
You may want to ask your doctor about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your past history of radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your doctor. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of X-ray examinations and/or treatments over a long period of time.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your doctor. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects.
If contrast dye is used, there is a risk for allergic reaction to the dye. Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, contrast media, iodine, or latex should notify their doctor. Also, patients with kidney failure or other kidney problems should notify their doctor.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with the accuracy of a fluoroscopy procedure. A recent barium X-ray procedure may interfere with exposure of the abdominal or lower back area.
Fluoroscopy may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices.
Generally, fluoroscopy follows this process:
While fluoroscopy itself is not painful, the particular procedure being performed may be painful, such as the injection into a joint or accessing of an artery or vein for angiography. In these cases, the radiologist will take all comfort measures possible, which could include local anesthesia, conscious sedation, or general anesthesia, depending on the particular procedure.
The type of care required after the procedure will depend on the type of fluoroscopy that is performed. Certain procedures, such as cardiac catheterization, will require a recovery period of several hours with immobilization of the leg or arm where the cardiac catheter was inserted. Other procedures may require less time for recovery.
If you notice any pain, redness, and/or swelling at the IV site after you return home following your procedure, you should notify your doctor as this could indicate an infection or other type of reaction.
Your doctor will give more specific instructions related to your care after the examination or procedure.
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