What is fluoroscopy?

Fluoroscopy is an enhanced x-ray that makes a moving picture of internal organs. A constant stream of x-rays pass through the patient. This casts shadows of internal organs onto a screen. Doctors use fluoroscopy when they need to see internal movement.

What are some common uses of this procedure?

One use is to observe the lungs and diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle between the chest and the abdomen that controls breathing. Fluoroscopy shows whether it is moving properly. It can also show various parts of the digestive tract when used during a barium swallow or enema test. Contrast dyes allow views of the gall bladder, bile ducts, and pancreas. Finally, it may be used to guide the passage of catheters or other tools through the body.

What can I expect during this exam?

Fluoroscopic imaging is painless. Before the imaging you will need to remove any jewelry or clothing that are in the area being scanned. For GI studies, you will usually need to drink barium, or have a barium enema. The barium provides the contrast needed to produce a clear image that can detect polyps and other abnormalities or obstructions.

You will then lie on a table or stand depending on the purpose and area being imaged. The camera will be moved to a position above or in front of you in order to get the proper angle for the images. The procedure will take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour depending on the purpose of the imaging. For example, fluoroscopy is often used in interventional radiology to aid the positioning of a needle for a biopsy or other procedure.

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