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When it comes to most forms of radiology and medical imaging, the names don’t seem so out of place. We’ve all heard of MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays, and bone density scans (DEXA) are pretty self explanatory. 

But when it comes to fluoroscopy, it’s not so obvious. The type of scan waves it uses isn’t mentioned in the name, and most people think of fluoride or fluorescent light bulbs when they see the first few letters of the word. Today we’d like to take a look at fluoroscopy, what it means, and who it’s helping out on a daily basis.

What Is Fluoroscopy?

Fluoroscopy uses a machine called a fluoroscope so that the radiologist and physician can see inside a patient's body in a non-invasive way. Fluoroscopy uses x-rays to view internal structures of the body. 

What Makes Fluoroscopy Unique?

First, fluoroscopy isn’t just a static image as you will find with many types of medical imaging involving x-rays. Instead, fluoroscopes create moving images.

Second, fluoroscopy uses a contrast agent in order to highlight the area of study. While the contrast between bone and muscles might be obvious in a traditional x-ray, the difference between the muscles of the abdomen and the muscles of the intestines aren’t so obvious. The contrast agent is ingested and shows the path it takes, highlighting the area of the body it flows to. The most common agent is barium, and you’ve probably heard the term “barium swallow.” Barium sulfate is swallowed by the patient, and fluoroscopy is used to record images of how it moves through the body.

In the early days of fluoroscopy, there was no way to record the images the contrast agent, so the physician would have to be on-site in order to see its movement. Today, digital imaging allows a radiologist to capture the images, play them back, analyze them, and pass them along to your physician. The software in fluoroscopes can even help to analyze the image for more accurate diagnosis. 

When Is Fluoroscopy Used?

A doctor might order fluoroscopy for many reasons. As we mentioned above, fluoroscopes are often used to watch the movement of the GI tract and discover how waste is — or is not — moving through the body. This includes imaging of the throat, esophagus, stomach, and intestines. 

Cardiac catheterization can be used to show radiologists and doctors how blood is flowing through the heart. Fluoroscopy can also be used to locate foregin bodies in a patient or to help guide injections into joints or the spine.

Are Fluoroscopes Dangerous? 

As with all types of medical imaging that use x-rays, it’s important to keep exposure levels to a minimum. Luckily, the use of digital fluoroscopes and their ability to play images back have reduced the number of “re-takes” considerably. The amount of x-ray exposure necessary to get a clean image has never been lower. 

Do You Need Fluoroscopy?

If your doctor has ordered a fluoroscopy scan, Fair Lawn Imaging is here for you to walk you through the process. Contact us as soon as your doctor says you need medical imaging.