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You can think of fluoroscopy as a continuous X-ray that allows radiologists and physicians to view the inside of the body in real-time during medical procedures. During fluoroscopy, an X-ray beam is passed through the body. The image is transmitted to monitor the movement of a body part with the help of a contrast agent (X-ray dye) passing through the body. Organs that have motion are best evaluated with fluoroscopy since it can illustrate what is happening to the organ over a period of time. Some examples of fluoroscopy use are:

  • Barium X-rays and enemas (to view the GI tract)
  • Arthoscopy to visualize and treat problems inside a joint
  • Joint injections

Why is a contrast agent necessary?

Since most of the organs in the body have a similar density on X-rays, the organs will not be clearly visible with fluoroscopy unless they are filled with some type of dense material. During a fluoroscopy procedure, our radiologists use contrast agents to fill certain organs and make them easily visible. The agent can be introduced by the mouth and swallowed, in the rectum, or by injection into a vein. Components inside the agent such as barium or iodine appear very dense on X-rays because they absorb or block more of the X-rays as these pass through the organ.

Barium and iodine are usually harmless to patients, although occasionally a patient can have an allergic reaction to some types of contrast. These agents are well tolerated for most people and are safely expelled through urine and bowel movement.

What to expect before and during fluoroscopy

Your physician will explain the fluoroscopy procedure during your visit and give you a chance to ask questions. The type of scan will determine if any preparation is required. While fluoroscopy itself is not painful, the procedure may be uncomfortable (such as joint injections or accessing veins and arteries). If your procedure causes pain or discomfort, your Ogden Clinic radiologist will take all possible measures to ensure your comfort. Local anesthesia, general anesthesia, or conscious sedation are options available for anxiety and discomfort.

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