In fluoroscopy, a continuous stream of x-rays is passed through the body and projected onto a television or fluorescent viewing screen to provide real-time images of internal structures in motion. (The images can be recorded on film or videotape for later viewing.)

Fluoroscopy is performed on its own to evaluate the movement of the diaphragm and lungs, but it is most often used in conjunction with other tests—for example, to guide catheter placement during cardiac catheterization.

Purpose of the Fluoroscopy

  • To evaluate the motion of the diaphragm, lungs, and other structures in the chest during breathing
  • To detect obstructions of the airways or blood vessels
  • To assist in a wide variety of diagnostic or therapeutic procedures that require placement of catheters, endoscopes (thin tubes used for viewing internal structures), and other instruments
  • To help doctors accurately guide a catheter into selected arteries and to track the flow of contrast agents as they circulate through the vessels during studies of the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract, spinal cord, uterus or joints
  • To detect bronchial obstructions and pulmonary disease

Who Performs Fluoroscopy

Special Concerns about Fluoroscopy

  • Pregnant women should not undergo this test because exposure to ionizing radiation may harm the fetus. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or may be pregnant.
  • During the test, any movements other than those requested by the examiner may affect the results.

Before the Fluoroscopy

  • Remove any clothing or jewelry covering the area being examined.
  • Additional preparation may be needed if a contrast dye is being administered, or if the test is being done in conjunction with another exam.

What You Experience during Fluoroscopy

  • An x-ray tube is suspended or held over your body; it transmits continuous images to a viewing monitor.
  • Depending on the nature of the examination, the examiner may ask you to assume different positions, cough, breathe in and out, and perform other movements while you are exposed to the x-rays.
  • When performed alone, fluoroscopy usually takes about 5 minutes.

Risks and Complications of Fluoroscopy

  • Although radiation exposure is minimal, you receive a higher dose than during standard x-ray procedures.
  • Contrast dye carries a risk for allergic reaction.

After the Fluoroscopy

  • You are free to resume your normal activities unless you need to observe restrictions associated with other tests performed in conjunction with fluoroscopy.

Fluoroscopy Results

  • A physician will examine the test images and video for evidence of any abnormality.
  • If a definitive diagnosis can be made, appropriate treatment will be initiated.
  • In some cases, additional tests may be needed to further evaluate abnormal results.


The Johns Hopkins Consumer Guide to Medical Tests

Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Editor

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 13 Jan 2012

Last Modified: 19 Mar 2015