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Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that takes a live X-ray movie of internal structures in the body. The “movie” is transmitted to a TV-like monitor so that the doctor can watch the organs inside the body as they work. CHOC radiologists use these images to help diagnose illnesses.

Side view of patient getting a fluoroscopy

When is fluoroscopy needed?

Fluoroscopy has many uses, including:

  • Evaluation of the gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, small and large bowel)
  • Evaluation of the urinary tract
  • Evaluation of swallowing
  • Evaluation of breathing (airway)
  • Guidance for placement of feeding tubes or catheters.

Can fluoroscopy harm my child?

A fluoroscopy is a safe, noninvasive procedure when done according to national safety guidelines. The benefits of fluoroscopy greatly outweigh the risk of harm when needed to diagnose illnesses and perform medical procedures. The radiology team at CHOC Children’s has been trained to use the least amount of radiation to obtain the necessary images.

What fluoroscopy safety guidelines does CHOC follow?

CHOC is dedicated to minimizing radiation exposure in children. We have reduced radiation by up to 90 percent on fluoroscopic procedures by using pulse dose technique and image capture compared to the more commonly used continuous fluoroscopy and full image acquisition. The pulse dose technique and image capture result in shorter fluoroscopy times which greatly reduces radiation exposure to patients. Read more about our commitment to safety.

What happens during fluoroscopy?

  • You and your child will be taken to the exam area by someone from our radiology team.
  • The technologist will explain the procedure to you and your child and ask pre-screening questions.
  • Your child will change into a comfortable gown for the procedure.
  • Your child will lie on an exam table and may be asked to move into different positions in order to get the pictures the radiologist needs.
  • The X-ray machine, called a fluoro-tower, is brought across the child, without touching them. The radiologist moves the tower over the area being examined.
  • The entire exam usually takes 30 to 40 minutes to complete.
  • It is important to note that this exam involves radiation. Pregnant women are not allowed in the room during the exam. Siblings or anyone under the age of 18 are also not allowed in the exam room.

Will my child be given a contrast material?

Most exams require a contrast material to be given to the child in order to help the doctor get a better view of the body structure being studied. If the child will need a contrast material, the entire procedure will be explained by the radiology department staff before the child’s appointment.

This may be given in a variety of ways depending on which area of the body the doctor is imaging. Contrast may be given by mouth, so that it enters the digestive tract, or through a catheter, so that it enters the urinary tract. In order to evaluate the rectum, or large intestine, an enema is used to give the contrast.

How should I prepare my child for fluoroscopy?

Following are a few helpful tips to help you prepare for your child’s fluoroscopy X-ray:

  • Dress your child comfortably in clothes that are easily removed, such as sweat clothes and a T-shirt.
  • Bring special toys or books to help your child relax during the exam, or you may choose to use our toys.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry and/or metal (zippers, snaps) in the area being examined.
  • Talk to your child honestly about the exam. Provide simple details about what will happen and what he or she needs to do.

Will my child feel any pain with fluoroscopy?

There is no pain associated with having a fluoroscopy exam. Sometimes your child may feel some discomfort with the injection of the contrast material. Our pediatric radiology technologists understand how to work with children and will take all comfort measures possible, depending on the procedure. Someone from our radiology team will call you a day or two before the exam to explain the procedure in detail.

All of our nurses, technologists and child life specialists use fun distractions like videos, toys and activities to help children feel more at ease with the imaging process. Once patients are comfortable, our staff uses play medical equipment, pictures and interactive tools to help children understand what to expect during the imaging exam.

What happens after the fluoroscopy?

  • The nurse or technologist will give you any special instructions and tell you when your child can leave.
  • If intravenous or clear contrast was given, it will leave your child’s body through his urine within 24 to 48 hours after the scan. The color of your child’s urine should stay normal.
  • If barium, a thicker contrast, was used for your child’s exam, your child might have some white material in his stool for two or three days. Barium can cause constipation (no stools or hard stools). Contact your child’s doctor if your child has not had a bowel movement after three days.
  • After the exam, your child may eat or drink as usual, unless your child’s doctor tells you not to feed him.

How do I learn the results?

The radiologist will provide a report to the doctor who ordered your child’s fluoroscopy. The doctor will then discuss the results with you. Call your child’s doctor if you have any questions.

Why Choose CHOC?

Long Live Childhood

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