Over the past few months, we’ve discussed the wonders of modern diagnostic imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging, CT scans, x-rays, ultrasounds, DEXA, and digital mammography. That covers most of the medical imaging machines that you’ll find in our office, but there’s one type of diagnostic imaging service that we haven’t yet covered: fluoroscopy.
If you’ve read our previous blogs, particularly this one, you already know a bit about fluoroscopy because of the primary form of medical imaging technology it uses: x-rays. Let’s take a look at fluoroscopy and how it’s used.
What Is Fluoroscopy?
While most people think of x-rays as being static images, fluoroscopy is a type of medical imaging that views x-rays in motion. Instead of a single image being gained, an entire video can be produced in order to review the images later.
When Is It Used?
Whether you think about it or not, internal parts of your body are constantly moving. The heart pumps, your lungs inhale, your throat is swallowing, and you intestines move food along. Fluoroscopy can be used to view these moving parts over time, and in real time. There’s no “combining images over time” as there are with other types of medical imaging. Two of the most common uses for fluoroscopy are for imaging the heart and in combinations with barium swallows.
Where Did Fluoroscopy Come From?
Technically, fluoroscopy predates static x-ray images on film. When Wilhelm Röntgen began experimenting with them in 1895, he found that he could view the insides of people in real time by holding up a piece of cardboard covered in fluorescing metal salts between himself and the patient. The x-ray producing machine would be behind the patient and aimed at the metal-covered cardboard.
Because of the technical limitations of the time, these real-time images would be extremely faint. This meant that a doctor would have to be in a darkened room and allow his eyes to adjust to the dark before the image could be made out. In order to prevent having to do this again and again, a way was devised to capture the image on film, what we know today as a standard x-ray. But those were only static images, and moving images still required a doctor to be in the room to view the motions of the internal structures of the body.
In 1956 the first cameras were introduced to fluoroscopy machines. Improvements in the technology allowed the images to be seen even in bright light, and doctors and technicians could now avoid repeated x-ray exposure by moving to another room. Not long after, videotape technology allowed for the process to be recorded, and today all moving images are recorded digitally.
The Shoe Store
Some of you might remember, or have been told about, the x-ray fluoroscopy devices that made their way into shoe stores in the first half of the 20th century. These devices would allow customers and salesmen to see x-rays of the feet, ostensibly to give the salesperson better knowledge about which shoe to fit the customer with. This gimmick went away as it became apparent that too much exposure to x-rays was not healthy, especially for such a frivolous reason as shoe sales!
You’ll be happy to know that the fluoroscopy machines of today use much less radiation and have far better shielding that those of the past. Fair Lawn Imaging is ready to help you get the best images available when your doctor requests them.