Fluoroscopy is a study of the moving structures of the body. It is an imaging test that uses X-rays for creating ‘real-time’ moving pictures of the body. It can allow your doctor to see your organs and tissues working on a video screen, which is similar to watching a movie. This procedure can help diagnose as well as treat several conditions of your bones, joints, blood vessels as well as digestive, respiratory, urinary and reproductive systems.
The test is non-invasive and generally painless. It creates images of any part of the body. Often, a contrast agent or dye is necessary for creating the fluoroscopy images. The images are reviewed by a radiologist and then discussed with your doctor. The results are then interpreted by your doctor in relation to your medical history, physical exam and other tests.
This procedure is used in several types of exams and procedures, which include-
Barium X-rays: In barium X-rays, fluoroscopy can alone let your doctor see the movement of your intestines as the barium moves through them.
Cardiac catheterization: In cardiac catheterization, fluoroscopy is used for helping your doctor view the flow of blood through the coronary arteries so that he/she can check for arterial blockages.
Arthrography: X-ray for viewing a joint or joints.
Electrophysiologic procedures: During these procedures, fluoroscopy can help in treating people having heart rhythm problems, i.e. arrhythmias.
Hysterosalpingogram: This is an X-ray of the uterus and the fallopian tubes.
Percutaneous vertebroplasty/kyphoplasty: This procedure is for treating compression fractures of the bones, i.e. vertebrae of the spine.
Placement of IV (intravenous) or arterial catheters: Catheters are thin, hollow tubes. For insertion of catheters, fluoroscopy can help by guiding the catheter into a specific vessel inside your body.
Fistulography: This test is used to assess an abnormal connection between two organs.
Retrograde urethrogram, micturating cysto-urethrogram: This test helps to assess problems in the urinary system.
First, your doctor will explain the details of the procedure to you and you can also ask any questions you might have. You can bring a list of questions and concerns to your appointment.
If you are pregnant or you think you might, you need to inform your doctor in advance. If you have had a reaction to any contrast dye, you need to inform him/her.
You also need to let your doctor known about the kind of medications or supplements that you might be taking.
The procedure for fluoroscopy may vary depending on the method but generally includes the following:
- First, you need to undress and change into a patient gown. Remove any jewelry, if you wear any.
- You will then be positioned on a table for creating the images. You might need to hold your breath for a brief period or change positions as required by the team.
- You might also receive a contrast agent. For catheter procedures, such as cardiac catheterization, your doctor will be injecting the contrast agent through the catheter.
- Children and adults who feel anxious might use a light sedative for helping them relax or stay still. Then special X-ray scanners take pictures of your specific body area and show the images instantly on the video screen. You will not feel any pain. If you are interested in viewing the images yourself, the team may let you look at it.
- Then your doctor will be completing other interventions and treatments as needed. For example, cardiac catheterization can include angioplasty for opening any blocked coronary arteries.
- You should be able to go home the same day or in some cases, you might be required to stay in the hospital for observation and further treatment.
- During the procedure, the fluoroscopy scanner never touches you itself and therefore, there should not be any pain. In some cases, doctors might use sedation for keeping the patients relaxed and comfortable during the entire procedure.
The type of care you need to take after the procedure will depend on the type of fluoroscopy that was performed. Certain procedures such as cardiac catheterization can require a recovery period of several hours with immobilization of a leg or arm, where the catheter was inserted. Other procedures generally require lesser time for recovery.
If you experience pain or see redness or swellings at the IV site after you return home after the procedure, then you need to inform your doctor about this, as this might indicate an infection or any other similar reaction.
You will receive more specific instructions from your doctor related to your care after the procedure.
Risks related to fluoroscopy can depend on your specific medical condition. Let your healthcare team know about all of your medical conditions before you undergo the procedure.
Due to the exposure to radiation, there is a small increase in the risk of cancer. Your healthcare team should follow strict standards for X-ray techniques and will use the smallest amount of radiation for producing the best images.
If you are pregnant, radiation might lead to birth defects and therefore, your doctor will generally not recommend fluoroscopy. Although rare, sometimes there might be allergic reactions to the contrast materials. The teams are generally well-prepared for handling allergic reactions.