Fluoroscopy Exam 101: What It Is, How It Works, And What To Expect

what is a fluoroscopy, what is a fluoroscope, how do fluoroscopies work, fluoroscopy exam.

Imaging tests can be pretty intimidating, especially if their name sounds foreign and strange, or is merely unrecognizable. One such test is a fluoroscopy which, granted, is not as familiar as other imaging procedures like an MRI, a CT scan, or a PET scan. Despite being a little less commonly known, fluoroscopies are very helpful simple, painless imaging tests that function much like X-rays and can be used to either diagnose or treat an illness.

If you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming fluoroscopy exam or about a procedure involving a fluoroscopy, here is everything you need to know about the exam, along with how it works and what you should expect.

What Is A Fluoroscope?

A fluoroscope is a special imaging device that produces viewable X-rays without the need to take or develop X-ray photographs. The machine works by passing a continuous X-ray beam through the body part being examined. This imaging technique allows for the body part to be seen in “real time” rather than as a snapshot image. Think of it as an X-ray movie!

What Is A Fluoroscopy?

A fluoroscopy is what we call the exam provided by the fluoroscope machine. It allows doctors and radiologists to study moving body structures and able to assess the organ’s performance.

How Does A Fluoroscopy Work?

A fluoroscopy, like most other imaging tests, can be used to see what’s going on within our bodies. The images that the procedure provides can be helpful in diagnosing abnormalities or in treating these abnormalities.

Fluoroscopy exams can provide detailed “moving’ images of entire body systems, including the skeletal, digestive, urinary, respiratory, and reproductive systems; or it can look at specific body organs, such as the heart, lungs, or kidneys.

The moving images allow doctors to see if there is a blood clot in the veins or arteries, if the bones are healthy, or if the digestive tract is working properly. One common fluoroscopy exam involves a barium (or contrast) swallow, which passes through the GI tract and allows doctors to see the GI movements in even greater detail.

Why Would I Need A Fluoroscopy?

There are a variety of reasons why you, or someone you know, may need a fluoroscopy exam. Like we mentioned above, fluoroscopes work for a variety of uses:

  • As a diagnostic tool to locate foreign bodies or abnormalities

  • As an image-guided tool for doctors when performing minimally invasive surgeries or procedures, such as biopsies, catheterizations, joint and spine injections.

Because fluoroscopies are oftentimes used to deliver treatment to patients, fluoroscopies can also be seen as a treatment tool. Though the fluoroscopy itself is completely painless, the main procedure that the fluoroscopy technology is assisting with may be painful, in which case your doctor will recommend either sedation, local or general anesthesia.

Here are some of the examinations that may include a fluoroscopy:

  • Enteroclysis

  • Lumbar puncture

  • Interventional radiology procedures

  • Interventional neuroradiology procedures

  • Myelogram

  • Upper gastrointestinal series

  • Small bowel series

What To Expect From A Fluoroscopy?

If you’ve ever had an X-ray, then you’ll find that a fluoroscopy exam is very similar — it is a kind of X-ray exam, after all!  But remember, how your fluoroscopy will work will be dependent on whether it is being used as a diagnostic test, or as an image-guided assistant to a larger procedure or surgery.

In either case, be sure to let your doctor know if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, as any X-ray radiation may harm the child’s development. Also be sure to mention any allergies or if you are sensitive to any medications (such as iodine) as they may be present in the contrast agent.

Otherwise, you can expect that your fluoroscopy will require you to remove all jewelry, change into a hospital gown, and/or follow some dietary restrictions previous to the exam. Depending on what part of your body is being examined, you may be required to stand or lay down. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any issues sitting, standing, or laying down in certain positions.

After the exam, your radiologist will review the images and a report will be sent straight to your physician. You can expect your report to be available 24 to 72 hours after your exam is over.

More Information

If you or someone you know are in need of an imaging center that performs fluoroscopies, look no further than BICRAD. Our imaging centers are conveniently located in the Northern California area, where you are sure to find a center near you. To learn more about our specialized radiologists, or for more information on our imaging services, contact us today!