Fluoroscopy is a study of moving body structures. It’s much like an X-ray "movie" and is often done while a contrast dye moves through the part of the body being examined.
A continuous X-ray beam is passed through the body part and sent to a video monitor so that the body part and its motion can be seen in detail.
Fluoroscopy, as an imaging tool, allows health care providers to look at many body systems, including the skeletal, digestive, urinary, cardiovascular, respiratory, and reproductive systems.
Fluoroscopy may be used to evaluate specific areas of the body. These include the bones, muscles, and joints, as well as solid organs, such as the heart, lung, or kidneys.
How the test is performed
Fluoroscopy may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your health care provider's practices.
Generally, fluoroscopy follows this process:
- You will be asked to remove any clothing or jewelry that may get in the way of the body area to be examined.
- If you are asked to remove your clothing, you will be given a gown to wear.
- A contrast substance or dye may be given, depending on the type of procedure that is being done. It is used to visualize better the organs or structures being studied.
- You will be positioned on the X-ray table. Depending on the type of procedure, you may be asked to move into different positions, move a certain body part, or hold your breath for a short time while the fluoroscopy is being done.
- For procedures that require catheter insertion, such as cardiac catheterization or catheter placement into a joint or other body part, a needle may be put into the groin, elbow, or other site.
- A special X-ray scanner will be used to produce the fluoroscopic images of the body structure being examined or treated.
- In the case of arthrography (visualization of a joint), any fluid in the joint may be removed with a needle and syringe before the contrast dye is injected. After the contrast is injected, you may be asked to move the joint for a few minutes to spread the contrast throughout the joint.
- The type of procedure being done and the body part being examined and/or treated will determine the length of the procedure.
- After the procedure has been completed, the IV line will be removed.
While fluoroscopy itself is not painful, the particular procedure being done 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 (numbing drugs), conscious sedation (medicines to make you sleepy), or general anesthesia (medicines to put you into a deep sleep and not feel pain), depending on the particular procedure.
How to prepare for the test
Your health care provider will explain the procedure to you and give you a chance to ask questions.
The specific type of procedure or exam being done will determine whether you have to do any preparation before the procedure. Your health care provider will give you any pre-procedure instructions.
Be sure to tell your health care provider, the radiologist, or the technologist if:
- You have ever had a reaction to any contrast dye, or if you are allergic to iodine
- You are pregnant or think you may be
- You are breastfeeding and ask if you need to pump and save milk to use after the procedure
Make sure your health care provider has a list of all medicines (prescribed and over-the-counter) and all herbs, vitamins, and supplements that you are taking.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure, make sure you know:
- The name of the test or procedure
- The reason you are having the test or procedure
- What results to expect and what they mean
- The risks and benefits of it
- Any possible side effects or complications
- When and where you are to have the test or procedure
- Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
- What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
- Any alternative tests or procedures to consider
- When and how will you get the results
- Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
- How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure
What happens after the test
The type of care needed after the procedure will depend on the type of fluoroscopy that is done.
Certain procedures, such as cardiac catheterization, will require a recovery period of several hours with immobilization of the leg or arm where the catheter was inserted.
Other procedures may need less time for recovery.
If you notice any pain, redness, or swelling at the IV site after you go home, you should tell your health care provider as this may be a sign of infection or other type of reaction.
Your health care provider will give more specific instructions related to your care after the procedure.