X-ray ‘movies’ provide images for radiologists to study

Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique used to study the movement of different areas of the body, including muscles, joints, organs and bones. The fluoroscope itself is a flat table that you lie on while a camera passes over the area of the body being studied. An X-ray beam passes through the body part and a moving image—a sort of X-ray “movie”—is transmitted to a TV monitor for the radiologist to study. Fluoroscopy may be used as a stand-alone procedure or with different types of procedures, such as barium X-rays, cardiac catheterization, arthrography, and electrophysiological procedures.

Before a fluoroscopic procedure you will be asked to remove clothing and jewelry and to wear a gown. You may also be required to have fluoroscopy “with contrast,” in which case a contrast dye is used to better illuminate parts of the body. The contrast dye may be swallowed, or given via enema or intravenously (via IV line). If you’re having an injection in an artery, vein or joint, you may need local anesthesia (to numb the area), or you may have conscious sedation (you’re sleepy but still awake and don’t feel anything) or general anesthesia (you’re asleep for the entire procedure). The length of the procedure depends on which type of test you’re having.

Risks of fluoroscopy and what to expect

There may be some pain at the point of insertion if you’re having an IV line inserted. If you’re having contrast dye, there is some risk of allergic reaction to the dye. If awake during fluoroscopy, you will be asked to hold different positions and hold your breath while the images are being taken. This may be uncomfortable but the procedure itself is not painful. As with any other test involving X-rays, there is a small amount of radiation exposure each time. If you are having multiple tests with multiple exposures over time, there is a cumulative effect of radiation in the body.

If you have any concerns about radiation, or if you are pregnant or think you might be, be sure to discuss this with your doctor.

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After the radiologist has reviewed the results of your test, he or she will share the results with your doctor who will explain the results to you and help determine next steps, if needed.