What is Fluoroscopy?

In some cases it is important to see how the part of the body works and this is when a physician will require the use of fluoroscopy. Fluoroscopy is a type of imaging that shows a continuous X-ray image on a monitor. Instead of taking one still image, as with a traditional x-ray, fluoroscopy allows the radiologist to see movement of the body by creating an image of an instrument or dye (contrast agent) as it moves in or through the body.

Baptist Health experts typically use the fluoroscopy to examine areas of the body such as:

  • Joints (arthrography).
  • Lower gastrointestinal tract (barium enema ).
  • Upper gastrointestinal tract .
  • Video swallowing study.

What to Expect During Fluoroscopy?

Once you arrive for your procedure you will be asked to change into a hospital gown so the area of the body to be examined is easily accessible. Depending on the type of procedure you are having, there are a couple different ways the contrast dye will be used to get a good working image of the body part being examined.

In a barium enema for the lower GI, the contrast material is administered through the rectum. A lubricated enema tip is inserted into your rectum and a liquid barium mixture will be released. The barium mixture will be observed on the television screen as it flows through your colon. If you physician has requested an air contrast barium enema as well, air will also be release into the colon along with the barium. In a barium swallow test for the upper GI, you will be asked to drink a liquid barium mixture while the radiologist watches the barium flow through your digestive tract. During fluoroscopy it is sometimes necessary to capture this x-ray “movie” from different angles. You may be asked to move or turn as the exam is taking place so that multiple angles of your anatomy can be captured. Many exams, depending on the part of the body, take an average of 15 - 20 minutes. Barium enema exams take a little longer at 30 – 40 minutes. 

If you are scheduled for a small bowel series the exam time will be quite a bit longer than this as all the areas of the bowel need to be imaged. For small bowel series, the barium you drink is followed through 22 feet of your small intestine by taking abdominal images every 30 minutes until the barium reaches the colon. This typically takes a minimum of 60 minutes but could take more or less time depending on how fast digestion happens.

Preparing for Your Exam

For many exams and the body part being examined, there is no prep for Fluoroscopy. For those that do require preparation, we have listed the procedure and the preparation below. Please be sure to follow up with any questions you may have well in advance of the night before your procedure to ensure you prepare in the right manner and do not have to reschedule your procedure because of insufficient preparation.

Barium Enema/Lower GI (LGI) : Two or three days before the exam, you will be instructed to eat a “low residue” diet consisting of liquids, low-fat and finely crushed foods. The night before the exam you will only drink clear liquids and refrain from eating or drinking anything after midnight. You will be prescribed a strong laxative to clear out the lower tract of your colon the day before the exam. In order to proceed with the exam, your digestive system must be completely empty. Any residue from food or beverages will show up on the images and could be mistaken for an abnormality so it is very important that these preparation instructions are followed completely.

Barium Swallow/Upper GI (UGI):  Do not eat or drink anything (including chewing gum) for eight to 12 hours before the exam so your stomach and upper digestive tract are completely empty. You may brush your teeth but avoid swallowing any water. 

What to Expect After Your Fluoroscopy Exam

As most fluoroscopy procedures do not require any prep, you most likely will not have any restrictions after your exam. If you are having Fluoroscopy that uses barium you will want to note the possible side effects below under each exam type.  Barium Enema’s Upper or Lower GI: After the exam you are free to resume activities and usual diet unless otherwise instructed by your physician.

Some side affects you might experience and are common after a barium enema are:

  • Whitish color to your stool for a day or two.
  • Constipation (increase water intake and use a mild laxative).

After the exam, a radiologist will send a report detailing what was seen on the x-ray “movie” during your exam. The physician will review the report and discuss the results with you at your next appointment.