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What Is Fluoroscopy?

FluoroscopyFluoroscopy is a study of moving body structures—similar to an X-ray movie. A continuous X-ray beam is passed through the body part being examined and then transmitted to a computer screen so the body part and its motion can be seen in detail.

Fluoroscopy is used in many types of examinations and procedures, such as barium X-rays, cardiac catheterization and placement of intravenous (IV) catheters (hollow tubes inserted into veins or arteries).

In barium X-rays, fluoroscopy allows the physician to see the movement of the intestines as the barium moves through them. For people who have heart disease and need a cardiac catheterization, fluoroscopy enables the physician to see the flow of blood through the coronary arteries in order to evaluate the presence of arterial blockages. For intravenous catheter insertion, fluoroscopy assists the physician in guiding the catheter into a specific location inside the body.

What Are the Benefits and Risks?

Fluoroscopy is a type of X-ray procedure, and it carries the same types of risks as other X-ray procedures. The radiation dose the patient receives varies depending on the individual procedure.

ImageThe two major risks associated with fluoroscopy are:

  • Radiation-induced injuries to the skin and underlying tissues (“burns”).
  • The small possibility of developing a radiation-induced cancer some time later in life.

The benefit of fluoroscopy far exceeds the small cancer risk associated with the procedure. Even when fluoroscopy is medically necessary, it should use the lowest possible exposure for the shortest possible time.

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