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What happens during a fluoroscopy?

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During a fluoroscopy, an X-ray beam continuously passes through the body, capturing images of the structure and motion of body systems, explains Johns Hopkins Medicine. The patient lies on a table while a machine transmits beams to a monitor. Depending on the organs under examination, the doctor may insert a catheter or administer a contrast dye to improve the clarity of the organs in the resulting images. The patient may also have to change positions or periodically hold his breath.

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Although the risk of complications is generally low, a lengthy fluoroscopy can expose a patient to a potentially harmful amount of radiation, states the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Possible effects of radiation include burn damage on skin and underlying tissue and an increased risk of developing cancer in the future. However, doctors and patients often decide that the medical urgency justifies the risk for treatments such as cardiac stents, orthopedic surgery and catheter insertion.

Doctors commonly use a fluoroscopy for barium X-rays that examine intestinal movement, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Other applications include arthrography for diagnostic imaging of joints, and cardiac catheterization for imaging of blood flow through coronary arteries. The procedure is also useful for pinpointing the location of foreign bodies or delivering anesthesia to the spine or joints.

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