Fluoroscopic screening, or fluoroscopy, is a specialised type of x-ray imaging used to produce 2D moving images of internal parts of the body, using a machine called a fluoroscope. Using a low dose x-ray beam, a virtually real-time image is produced that allows a Radiologist, a Specialist Doctor, to assess the anatomy and physiology (function) of moving structures. The term “fluoroscopy” does not describe a particular type of examination but indicates what equipment is used for a particular test.
What is fluoroscopic screening?
Fluoroscopy enables a Radiologist to view and evaluate almost all of the body’s organs including the skeletal, digestive, urinary, respiratory, biliary, reproductive and vascular systems. As many of these organs are not easily visualised with x-rays alone, a dye, called contrast media is often used. Barium, iodine and air are typical contrast medias.
In a barium swallow procedure, for example, the Doctor can observe the anatomy and function of the oesophagus and stomach as barium passes through, after having been swallowed.
In conjunction with more specialised equipment, a Radiologist uses fluoroscopy to guide and position catheters in arteries to assess the flow of blood through the vessels, after the injection of contrast media. Mobile fluoroscopy units also exist for assisting in procedures in the operating theatres.
About the Equipment
What are the equipment specifications for Fluoroscopic Screening?
An x-ray machine called a fluoroscope or an Image Intensifier (II) is used for these procedures. They can be permanently fixed and have a table attached or they can be mobile units, which can be freely moved around.
What are the benefits of Fluoroscopic Screening?
Fluoroscopic screening produces seemingly live images of internal parts of the body, instead of just still images. This means Doctors can monitor and examine how organs and blood vessels are functioning and allows accurate placement of catheters, wires and needle for a wide range of both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
How long does a fluoroscopy procedure take?
Due to the wide range and variety of fluoroscopic procedures available, the length of the procedures can vary greatly. For example, a barium swallow may only take 10 minutes whilst a study of the vascular or biliary systems may take several hours
When you book your appointment you will be given an estimate of how long the procedure will take.
Fluoroscopic Screening Procedure Description
Fluoroscopic screening can be used for diagnostic purposes or as an aid for more complex therapeutic medical procedures.
Your doctor and/or the Radiologist will provide you with more detailed information and instructions before the day of the procedure.
The following steps are common to most fluoroscopy procedures
- The patient will lie on a table under the fluoroscope.
- The table may be tilted so that the patient is standing.
- The fluoroscopy is moved over the patient’s body, over the structures being examined.
- A dye is swallowed or injected to help visualise structures.
- A catheter or tube may need to be inserted.
- Sedation or local anaesthetic may be required if the procedure is likely to be uncomfortable or painful.
What are the risks of fluoroscopic procedures?
These procedures use x-rays, a form of radiation, which can, at high doses, increase the risk of cancer and localised damage to the skin. However, during fluoroscopic procedures, a low dose x-ray is utilised and every effort is made to reduce the total radiation dose to the patient and maintain levels below an acceptable limit. In complex and long procedures, higher radiation doses will only be accepted if the overall benefit to the patient outweighs the possible risks.
As x-rays can cause harm to an unborn foetus, fluoroscopic procedures to pregnant patients is often very limited and restricted.
Some patients may also have an allergic reaction to the contrast media used but these are usually minor and can be treated immediately with medication.
Are there any alternatives to a fluoroscopic procedure?
For some examinations or conditions, an alternative procedure may be performed – for example a CT scan, an ultrasound, MRI etc. For each examination, the Referring Doctor and the Radiologist will determine the most appropriate test to produce the best diagnostic or therapeutic outcome.
Preparation for a fluoroscopic procedure
You will be provided with special instructions, if required, prior to your appointment. These instructions may be regarding medications, fasting or appropriate clothing.
What should a patient tell the Radiographer before the exam?
You will need to tell the Radiographer if you are:
- Taking any medication
- Have any allergies
- Suffer from any serious health conditions
What to bring for a fluoroscopic procedure?
If possible, bring any previous x-ray/scans with you.
What to wear for a fluoroscopic procedure?
It is likely that you will be asked to change in to a hospital gown so comfortable clothing that can easily be removed would be advisable.
You will also be asked to remove any metallic item, like jewellery, which may show up on the images and obscure anatomy
Post procedure instruction?
For most procedures, you will be able to resume normal activities immediately. For some procedures though, you may be requested to reduce physical activity or change your diet for a period of time or have assistance going home from the procedure. Some procedures will require recovery, under nursing observation, in the Radiology Department, or require overnight admission to hospital. You will be advised of these requirements at the time of examination booking.