Fluoroscopy is a continuous-X-ray-imaging procedure that produces a video of body structures in motion. During fluoroscopy, X-ray beams are passed through the region of the body being examined, and the moving images produced are transmitted to a monitor. In this way, the targeted area can be viewed in detail. Fluoroscopy is an effective tool for medical evaluations of the functioning of almost all the body’s systems, including the digestive, urinary, cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal and reproductive. Fluoroscopy can be used on its own as a diagnostic tool, or in combination with other diagnostic or therapeutic procedures.
Reasons For Fluoroscopy
There are many reasons that fluoroscopy is performed, including to highlight problems with the following:
- Upper GI tract
- Lower GI tract
- Heart and blood flow
- Neurological system
- Urinary tract
- Uterus and fallopian tubes
It is also used in percutaneous vertebroplasty, a procedure used to treat compression spine fractures.
The Fluoroscopy Procedure
Before undergoing fluoroscopy, patients ingest a contrast material called barium, or have barium administered by some other means. How and where barium is administered depends on the area of the body to be examined, because barium works by coating and highlighting the targeted area. Barium is swallowed to provide a view of the upper digestive tract; administered by enema for a view of the lower digestive tract; delivered by catheter in order to view the urinary tract or bile ducts; and given intravenously in order to view blood vessels.
Fluoroscopy is generally considered safe, though, like other X-ray procedures, it involves some risks. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are usually advised to undergo a different type of imaging examination. The radiation dose received varies from one individual to another and, therefore, so does the level of risk. Most of the time, the danger is statistically minimal. In some cases, however, the risk is elevated because a relatively high radiation dose is involved. This is particularly true when a stent or other device must be precisely placed in the body, exposing the patient to radiation for a longer period of time.
The immediate risks of radiation absorbed through fluoroscopy include radiation burns to the skin and underlying tissue. There is also some risk that a radiation-precipitated malignancy may later develop.