Fluoroscopy is a study of moving body structures - similar to an x-ray "movie." A continuous x-ray beam is passed through the body part being examined, and is transmitted to a TV-like monitor so that the body part and its motion can be seen in detail.

Fluoroscopy is used in many types of examinations and procedures, such as barium x-rays, cardiac catheterization, and placement of intravenous (IV) catheters (hollow tubes inserted into veins or arteries). In barium x-rays, fluoroscopy allows the physician to see the movement of the intestines as the barium moves through them. In cardiac catheterization, fluoroscopy enables the physician to see the flow of blood through the coronary arteries in order to evaluate the presence of arterial blockages. For intravenous catheter insertion, fluoroscopy assists the physician in guiding the catheter into a specific location inside the body.

How is fluoroscopy performed?
Fluoroscopy may be part of an examination or procedure that is done on either an outpatient or inpatient basis. The specific type of procedure or examination being done will determine whether any preparation prior to the procedure is required. Your physician should notify you of any pre-procedure instructions.

Although each hospital may have specific protocols in place and specific examinations and procedures may differ, fluoroscopy procedures generally follow this process:

  • An intravenous (IV) line is started in the patient's hand or arm.
  • The patient is positioned on the x-ray table.
  • For procedures that require catheter insertion, such as cardiac catheterization or catheter placement, an additional line insertion site may be used in the groin, elbow, or other site.
  • A special x-ray scanner is used to produce the fluoroscopic images of the body structure being examined or treated.
  • A dye or contrast substance may be injected into the IV line in order to better visualize the structure being studied.

The type of care required after the procedure will depend on the type of procedure done. Certain procedures, such as cardiac catheterization, will require a recovery period of several hours with immobilization of the leg or arm where the cardiac catheter was inserted. Other procedures may require less time for recovery. The physician will give more specific instructions related to care after the examination or procedure.