What is fluoroscopy?

Fluoroscopy is an imaging test that uses X-rays to make “real-time” moving pictures of the body. Fluoroscopy allows your doctor to see your organs and tissues working on a video screen, similar to watching a movie. Fluoroscopy helps diagnose and treat many conditions of the blood vessels, bones, joints, and digestive, urinary, respiratory and reproductive systems.

A fluoroscopy is a noninvasive medical test and is generally painless. It makes images of any organ or body part. A contrast agent or dye is often necessary to create the fluoroscopy images. 

A radiologist will review your fluoroscopy images and discuss them with your doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the results with you. Together, you will decide what next steps, if any, you need to take based on the fluoroscopy results.

A fluoroscopy is only one method used to diagnose and treat many diseases, disorders and conditions. Your doctor will interpret your fluoroscopy results in relation to your physical exam, medical history, and other tests. Discuss all of your testing and treatment options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you.

Why is fluoroscopy performed? 

Your doctor may recommend a fluoroscopy to diagnose a disease and to guide invasive treatments. Doctors use fluoroscopy by itself or combine it with other procedures. The following common procedures use fluoroscopy:

  • Arthrogram shows joint structures including tendons, ligaments and cartilage. It diagnoses joint conditions such as arthritis and injuries.
  • Barium swallow shows the structure and function of the esophagus. It diagnoses narrowing or a tumor of the esophagus, and digestive symptoms such as burping, vomiting, regurgitation, and swallowing problems.
  • Cardiac catheterization makes images of your heart and coronary arteries. It diagnoses and treats coronary artery disease and other heart conditions.
  • Hysterosalpingogram shows the shape of the uterus and fallopian tubes, and fallopian tube blockages. It diagnoses the cause of infertility.
  • Intravenous pyleogram (IVP) shows the structure and function of the kidneys, ureters and bladder. It diagnoses kidney stones, pyelonephritis, polycystic kidney disease, and kidney abnormalities.
  • Lower GI series (barium enema) shows the structure of the colon (large intestine). It diagnoses polyps, diverticula, cancer, ulcers and inflammation.
  • Orthopedic procedures use fluoroscopy to guide orthopedic surgeries, proper realignment of bones, joint injections, joint aspirations, and percutaneous vertebroplasty (a minimally invasive procedure to treat vertebral compression fractures).
  • Upper GI series shows the structure of the esophagus, stomach, and a portion of the small intestine. An upper GI series with small bowel includes all of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon (large intestine). These tests diagnose ulcers, masses, narrowing of the digestive tract, diverticula, and esophageal varices.
  • Voiding cysto-urethrogram (VCUG) shows the size, shape and capacity of the bladder and urethra. It diagnoses urinary reflux, birth defects, and the cause of frequent bladder infections and difficulty emptying the bladder.

Who performs fluoroscopy?

Many types of doctors perform fluoroscopy to diagnose conditions and guide certain treatment procedures, such as a cardiac catheterization. Doctors who commonly use fluoroscopy include:

  • Cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating heart diseases. Many cardiologists are trained to perform nonsurgical, catheter-based procedures and specialized imaging techniques (interventional cardiology). 
  • Gastroenterologists are internists or pediatricians who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases, disorders and conditions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or digestive system.
  • Obstetricians-gynecologists (Ob/Gyns) specialize in the medical and surgical care of the female reproductive system.
  • Orthopedic surgeons specialize in diagnosing and treating injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system, including the muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, nerves and bones.
  • Radiologists, sometimes called diagnostic radiologists, specialize in medical imaging. Your radiologist may be assisted by a radiologic technologist, a healthcare provider who performs imaging procedures and takes care of patients during the procedures. 
  • Urologists and pediatric urologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions of the genitourinary tract.