Ever wondered what fluoroscopy means and why it is done? Fluoroscopy is an imaging method used to view and examine body parts such as the heart, lungs, or kidneys, as well as complex body organs like the bones, muscles, and joints by sending continuous pulses of an X-ray beam through the body.
Similar to fluoroscopy, other similar procedures such as X-rays, myelography, computed tomography ( CT scan ), magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI ), and arthrography can also be used to diagnose problems of the bones, muscles, or joints.
Why is fluoroscopy done?
Fluoroscopy can be used for examination or during a procedure. Examples include:
- Blood flow studies: Visualizing the flow of blood to the organs.
- Enemas: Insert a rubber tip into the rectum.
- Barium X-rays and enemas (to view the gastrointestinal tract).
- Catheter insertion and manipulation (to direct the movement of a catheter through blood vessels, bile ducts, or the urinary system).
- Implantation of devices within the body, such as stents (to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels) or pacemakers.
- Angiograms (to visualize blood vessels and organs).
- Orthopedic surgery.
Risks associated with fluoroscopy
Just like every other x-ray procedure, fluoroscopy carries some risks due to exposure to radiation. A patient may experience complications as a result of radiation exposure depending on the dose. These conditions include:
- Burns, which develop soon after exposure and affect the skin and underlying tissues.
- Possibility of developing radiation-induced cancer later in life.
- Sensitivity or allergic reactions to contrast dye
These side effects are extremely unlikely to occur. In actuality, the danger from radiation is typically far lower than other risks, such as those from anesthesia, drowsiness, or the actual course of treatment. Fluoroscopy should always be performed with the lowest allowable dose for the shortest duration necessary to reduce the radiation risk.
How to Prepare for a Fluoroscopy
In preparation for a fluoroscopy procedure, these are steps to take before, during, and after the procedure.
- Before the procedure
Your doctor will explain the details of the procedure, this is a good time to ask questions or inform your doctor about existing health conditions you may have. If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be, breastfeeding, on any medication, or have any medication allergies, let your doctor know.
Just before the procedure(the modalities of this may vary depending on the hospital’s policy) a consent form will be administered to you to ensure that you are agreeing to have this procedure done, you understand the steps and risks associated, etc.
Typically, the night before your procedure, you will be requested to abstain from food and drinks after midnight. If you are on any medication you should confirm with your doctor if you can take them as usual or if you are to wait until after the procedure. Many fluoroscopies and x-ray procedures like chest and bone x-rays require no specific preparation except examinations of the digestive system or kidneys, such as an upper GI series, upper GI with small bowel exam, barium enema, or a kidney exam called an intravenous pyelogram or oesophagram. Your doctor will guide and inform you of specific preparations for these exceptions.
- During the procedure
- The patient will be asked to remove any clothing or jewelry that may interfere with the exposure of the body area to be examined. Mostly, patients will be asked to change into a hospital gown.
- A contrast substance may be given, depending on the type of procedure that is being performed, via swallowing, enema, or an intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm.
- Depending on the type of procedure, you may be asked to assume different positions, move a specific body part, or hold your breath at intervals while the fluoroscopy is being performed.
- For procedures that require catheter insertion, such as cardiac catheterization or catheter placement into joint or other body parts, an additional line insertion site may be used in the groin, elbow, or other sites.
- A dye or contrast substance may be injected into the IV line in order to better visualize the organs or structures being studied.
- In the case of arthrography (visualization of a joint), any fluid in the joint may be aspirated (withdrawn with a needle) prior to the injection of the contrast substance. After the contrast is injected, you may be asked to move the joint for a few minutes in order to evenly distribute the contrast substance throughout the joint.
- The type of procedure being performed 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.
- After the procedure
Depending on the kind of fluoroscopy done, the aftercare may differ. A patient who just had a cardiac catheter implanted would likely need to be immobilized for a recovery period of several hours following the procedure, such as cardiac catheterization. Other operations might have shorter recovery periods.
After your surgery, you should call your doctor if you experience any pain, redness, or swelling at the IV site. These symptoms could signify an infection or another kind of reaction. After the procedure, your doctor will provide you with more detailed advice about how to care for yourself before discharge.