Treatments & Therapies

Fluoroscopy – Treatment, Effect & Risks


Fluoroscopy is a special examination method. In technical terms, it is also known as fluoroscopy . It is an X-ray based examination method.

What is fluoroscopy?

X-rays are an examination method in which processes and movement sequences can be understood and imaged using X-rays.

In contrast to simple X-rays, fluoroscopy involves continuous observation. A kind of series of images is generated. This series of images makes it possible to visualize dynamic processes in the human or animal body and to observe them in real time.

Function, effect & goals

Fluoroscopy or X-ray fluoroscopy is a special X-ray method. Like normal X-rays, the image or images are obtained using X-rays.

For the duration of the fluoroscopy, low-dose X-rays are continuously directed at the patient’s body or the corresponding part of the body to be imaged. A special detector then catches the X-rays again. From here they are guided to a so-called image converter, which reproduces the process to be observed in the body on a monitor. The images generated in this way are two-dimensional.

Fluoroscopy is mainly used for diagnostic purposes. The method of fluoroscopy has proven its worth when it comes to imaging the processes in the esophagus , stomach , diaphragm , duodenum or the entire intestine . A common application is the investigation of swallowing disorders , for which altered esophageal motility may be responsible. In addition, fluoroscopy is also suitable for displaying venous vessels and for examining the lungs .

For example, pulmonary nodules, i.e. certain types of shadowing of the lungs, can be localized and imaged. The fluoroscopy procedure is also used less frequently in the area of ​​the joints in order to be able to understand the course of the joint movement. Furthermore, the examination method of fluoroscopy is used in the examination of the kidneys and the urinary tract.

A particular advantage of this examination method is the very precise possibility of locating organs, certain tissues or problem areas in organs. This is due to the fact that the recording geometry of the fluoroscopy is cone-shaped. For this reason, the term cone beam CT or cone beam tomography is sometimes used .

However, fluoroscopy is not only used for diagnostic purposes. It also plays a major role in surgical procedures. Here it serves above all to check the position of bones , implants and heart pacemakers . In the same way, fluoroscopy is used for orientation when positioning stents or catheters .

Some fluoroscopy applications require prior administration of a contrast medium . Depending on the organ or joint to be examined , the contrast agent is either swallowed or administered intravenously. Various types of contrast media are used in connection with fluoroscopy. These contrast agents are special preparations developed for X-ray procedures. The X-ray contrast media are based either on iodine or on barium. Contrast agents are mostly used when it comes to imaging organ movements, such as in the area of ​​the gastrointestinal tract .

If a contrast medium has to be administered for the intended examination, the patient must either drink it beforehand or receive it intravenously.

During the examination, the patient lies either on or in front of a tilting examination table. Sometimes the patient also stands in front of the tiltable examination table. This depends on where in the body the organ or joint to be examined is located. Some processes can also only be observed when the patient changes position during the examination.

Risks, side effects & dangers

As with any ordinary X-ray examination, X-rays are inevitably used. These are weak X-rays. Nevertheless, the examination is associated with exposure to radiation, so that the fluoroscopy, for example, may not – at least not without further ado – be carried out on pregnant patients.

The intensity of the radiation exposure depends on the purpose for which the fluoroscopy is carried out. In general, exposure to radiation during fluoroscopy lasts longer than during a normal X-ray. However, this does not mean that the radiation exposure must necessarily be higher. This used to be the case because recording technology was not that advanced.

Today, the technique of so-called pulsed fluoroscopy is used. This makes it possible to work with a much lower radiation intensity. If it is only a matter of checking the position as part of a surgical intervention or in the run-up to another examination, very little radiation is required nowadays. In these cases, fluoroscopy actually requires less radiation exposure than a classic overview image obtained from a normal X-ray.

However, complications can arise if the patient has to take a contrast medium and cannot tolerate it. Time and again, patients have an allergic reaction to contrast media. Therefore , special caution is required, especially in patients who are generally prone to allergies . It is therefore advisable for patients who have a known allergy to inform the doctor or the medical-technical assistant about the allergy in good time. It is often possible to switch to a contrast agent with a different active ingredient. In some cases, the contrast media can also cause nausea and sensitivity to lightfollowing the investigation. Depending on the contrast medium used, it may therefore be necessary to avoid direct sunlight for around 24 hours in order to avoid the formation of pigment spots.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.