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Fluoroscopy is a type of noninvasive X-ray that uses a continuous beam of radiation to project moving images – an X-ray movie – on a fluorescent screen or computer monitor.

At the University of Maryland Medical Center, our two imaging locations schedule appointments for fluoroscopy. To make an appointment, call 410-328-3225.

What to Expect During Fluoroscopy

Fluoroscopy sometimes uses a contrast material to make it easier to view organs in motion, much like contrast material in a CT scan. You will receive instructions for preparation before your appointment. You will be awake during all fluoroscopy exams.

Depending on the type of procedure and your condition, you may either stand or lie on a table during the exam. Our radiologist will ask you to hold different positions and hold your breath while making a series of images. Some fluoroscopic tests require the use of a solution containing a slightly radioactive form of the element barium as a contrast material. These include gastroenterology procedures such as:

Barium Enema

A barium enema is a diagnostic test of the large intestine (colon) to assess the anatomy and function of the rectum, colon and part of the lower small intestine. You may have a barium enema to diagnose conditions like ulcers, polyps (noncancerous tumors) and cancer.

There is a small risk of a perforated bowel during the barium enema. Alternatives to a barium enema are virtual colonoscopy or conventional colonoscopy. Your doctor will tell you if these suit your needs.

Prior to your exam, please call 410-328-3225 for latest instructions.

Barium Swallow

This allows our radiologist to evaluate the structure and function of your esophagus and upper gastrointestinal tract (upper GI). This includes your stomach and the first part of the small intestine. The barium swallow allows specialists to diagnose ulcers, tumors, esophageal inflammation, hiatal hernia and bowel blockages. There is no alternative test for a barium swallow.

Before your exam, do not eat or drink anything after 12 am (midnight) the night before your scheduled exam. You may take medications with a small sip of water.

Small Bowel Series

This exam uses fluoroscopy with barium as a contrast medium to evaluate the small intestines. You may have this procedure to diagnose ulcers, tumors, inflammation, blockages and abnormalities such as polyps (small, noncancerous tumors). There is no alternative exam to the small bowel series.

You may not eat or drink anything after 12 am (midnight) the night before your exam.

Upper Gastrointestinal Series

A fluoroscopic exam of the upper GI includes the pharynx, esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine, using barium as a contrast agent. You may have this procedure to diagnose ulcers, tumors, esophageal inflammation, hiatal hernia, scarring and conditions that affect the gastrointestinal muscular wall tissues. There is no alternative to this test.

You may not eat or drink anything after 12 am (midnight) the night before your exam.

Fluoroscopy Risks

Because of the continuous X-ray beam, fluoroscopy can result in relatively high radiation doses. This can happen during complex interventional procedures, like placing stents in blood vessels, which require fluoroscopy guidance over 30-60 minutes. Radiation-related risks associated with fluoroscopy include injuries, or “burns,” to the skin and underlying tissues that occur shortly after exposure, and cancers that may develop years later.

Fluoroscopy Benefits

Fluoroscopy usually causes no side effects. Allergic reactions to the barium solution are rare, and no radiation remains in your body after the exam.