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What is fluoroscopy?

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Fluoroscopy is a medical imaging process similar to X-rays that shows moving images of internal organs rather than still shots, reports About.com. Doctors sometimes inject dye or other contrast material so they can follow its progress through the body. Because fluoroscopy exposes a patient to radiation, it has the same long-term risk of cancer as X-rays.

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Doctors use fluoroscopy to diagnose disorders in the gastrointestinal tract, blood vessels and other organs, explains the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They also use it to place stents to open up blocked blood vessels and to insert catheters through urinary systems, blood vessels and bile ducts. Fluoroscopy aids orthopedic surgeons in repairing fractures and positioning joint replacements. Doctors sometimes perform fluoroscopy as part of outpatient procedures, but surgeons may also perform it while a patient is under general anesthesia, as part of an operation.

Some prolonged fluoroscopy procedures expose patients to high levels of radiation, although the risk of side effects is still small compared to other aspects of surgical treatment, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The radiation may cause burns to the skin and the tissue layers beneath it. Rare long-term effects may include hair loss, cataracts and cancer. Patients may also react negatively to the dye or contrast agent. The risk of side effects is higher in children and women.

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