What Is a Fluoroscopy Procedure?

Reviewed on 2/7/2023
Fluoroscopy Procedure
Fluoroscopy is an imaging procedure similar to an MRI or a CT scan.

Fluoroscopy is a type of imaging technique that uses several X-ray beam pulses to capture real-time images of the tissues inside your body. Fluoroscopy is a tool used by medical practitioners to monitor and diagnose conditions and to guide imaging during some procedures.

What is fluoroscopy?

Like light or radio waves, X-rays are a form of radiation. When your body is exposed to them, it absorbs varied amounts of X-rays depending on the part that is exposed to X-rays, the type of tissue, and its density. When they are captured on a particular film or an X-ray detector, various amounts of X-rays that pass through create images of your bones and internal organs. 

Historically, X-ray images were printed on sizable film sheets, much like a sizable negative for a typical photograph. Nowadays, X-rays are frequently saved as digital files on a computer. As a result, your doctor can more easily view your X-rays on a computer and compare them to earlier ones.

  • Similarly, fluoroscopy is an imaging procedure such as an MRI or a CT scan, which converts X-rays into video images that your doctor can use to observe your body parts in action or to support another surgery taking place inside your body.
  • During fluoroscopy, a sequence of images created by a continuous X-ray is relayed to a specific screen, such as a TV or computer monitor, which gives your doctor or surgeon a real-time view of what is happening inside your body; this can be used to diagnose organ problems or facilitate internal surgery.

What is fluoroscopy used for?

Fluoroscopy is used in many types of imaging procedures.

The most common uses of fluoroscopy include:

  • Barium X-rays: Fluoroscopy alone allows the medical professional performing barium X-rays to observe the intestines' motion as the barium passes through them.
  • Heart catheterization: Fluoroscopy is a tool used by medical professionals during cardiac catheterization to see the blood flow through the coronary arteries. It can check for artery obstructions. 
  • Electrophysiological techniques: Fluoroscopy is used in these procedures to treat people with arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).
  • Arthrography: In this imaging examination, joints are seen using X-rays.
  • Intravenous or arterial catheter placement: Catheters are thin, hollow tubes. Fluoroscopy is used for catheter insertion to direct the catheter into a particular bodily vessel.
  • Hysterosalpingogram: Involves an X-ray of the fallopian tubes and uterus.
  • Percutaneous kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty: Treats compression fractures of the spine's vertebrae. Best performed with the use of high-quality fluoroscopy to verify the needle location for the procedure.
  • Retrograde urethrogram, micturating cystourethrogram: Evaluates urinary system issues.
  • Fistulography: Evaluates a fistula (an improper connection between two organs).


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How is fluoroscopy performed?

Fluoroscopy may be used as part of an inpatient or outpatient examination or operation. The specific type of procedure or examination being performed will determine the requirement of preparation before the procedure. Your physician should notify you of any pre-procedure instructions.

Although specific tests and procedures may differ and each institution may have its policies, fluoroscopy processes frequently go as follows:

  • An intravenous (IV) line is started in the person’s arm or hand.
  • The person is allowed to lie down on the X-ray table.
  • For procedures involving the insertion of catheters, including cardiac catheterization or catheter installation, an extra line insertion site may be used in the groin, elbow, or another region.
  • Fluoroscopic images of the body structure being inspected or treated are created using a specialized X-ray scanner.
  • A dye or contrast agent may be administered into an IV line to improve the visibility of the structure being studied.
  • Depending on the treatment type, types of postoperative care may be needed. For some procedures, including cardiac catheterization, the leg or arm where the heart catheter was inserted must be immobilized for a few hours. The recovery period following some treatments could be shorter. The doctor will provide you with more comprehensive aftercare recommendations after the examination or procedure.

What are the risks of fluoroscopy?

A few radiation exposure risks are associated with fluoroscopy that is similar to those of traditional X-ray methods. Therefore, you shouldn't have a fluoroscopy procedure done if you are pregnant or think you could be as radiation may cause harm to the developing fetus. When done correctly, diagnostic fluoroscopy for people exposes them to relatively little radiation. 

Fluoroscopy used by medical professionals during some invasive procedures or surgeries may expose people to higher doses of radiation.

Fluoroscopy used for these reasons carries the following radiation-related risks:

  • Radiation-induced skin and underlying tissue damages (burns) that appear quickly after radiation exposure.
  • Tumors caused by radiation exposure could form later in life.

These detrimental effects are incredibly unlikely to materialize. When the procedure is medically required, its benefits surpass any radiation risks.

If contrast dye is used during your fluoroscopy procedure, there is a small possibility that you'll experience an allergic reaction. If you have any allergies or if you've ever had a reaction to contrast material, tell your doctor straight away.

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