What Is Fluoroscopy?
A fluoroscopy procedure (also known as videofluoroscopy or a swallow study) looks at how parts of the body move during tests and procedures. It’s a type of radiology and advanced imaging procedure. An X-ray is like taking a photograph, while a fluoroscopy study is like taking a video.
During a fluoroscopy exam (also called a modified barium swallow study), a child sits in a special seat while a video X-ray camera tracks how food moves through the body while the child eats and drinks.
Procedures that use fluoroscopy include:
- Contrast-enhanced enemas.
- Gastrostomy tube (G-tube) replacements.
- Joint injection and arthrogram Lumbar punctures.
- Nasogastric/nasojejunal feeding tube (NG/NJ) placements.
- Small bowel series.
- Upper gastrointestinal series.
- Voiding cystourethrograms.
Who Benefits from Fluoroscopy?
A fluoroscopy can be used to check for problems with swallowing that might cause a child difficulty in breathing, eating or drinking.
A fluoroscopy exam might be recommended if your child has:
- Abdominal pain.
- Gastroesophageal reflux.
- Joint pain.
- Neurogenic bladder.
- Urinary tract infections.
Fluoroscopy can also help if your child has a condition that causes difficulty with swallowing, chewing, eating and drinking. For example:
- Cerebral palsy.
- Epilepsy and seizures.
- Brain injuries.
- Spina bifida.
- Chiari malformations.
- Complex movement disorders.
- Neuromuscular conditions.
- Spinal cord injuries.
Preparing for Your Visit
Before a fluoroscopy exam, you can help your child prepare at home by having them practice lying still for 15 minutes at a time. If your child is unable to remain still for long periods of time, or if they have experienced pain or anxiety during previous imaging scans, talk with your health care provider about the possibility of sedation during a fluoroscopy exam.
If your child is pregnant or could be pregnant, talk with your doctors before having a fluoroscopy exam. Females age 12 and older must have a urine or blood pregnancy test before receiving sedation medicine and/or IV contrast dye, or if they are receiving radiation directed at their abdominal cavity (including their lower spine, hip, and pelvis).
If you are pregnant or could be pregnant, you shouldn’t plan to be in the room during your child’s fluoroscopy exam.
While preparing for a fluoroscopy exam, your child should continue to take scheduled medication
s, but should not take any food or drink by mouth for four hours before the exam. As much as possible, patients should arrive for their appointment hungry.
Plan to bring the following items along for your child’s fluoroscopy exam:
- Small amounts of food and drink that your child can swallow easily and willingly.
- Small amounts of food and drink that your child has trouble swallowing.
- Some of your child’s favorite foods.
- Any of your child’s familiar or favorite feeding tools, including spoons, sippy cups, bottles, etc.
What to Expect During a Fluoroscopy Exam
Radiologists and radiology practitioner assistants conduct the fluoroscopy exam with the help of speech and language pathologists and radiologic technologists. A fluoroscopy does not hurt. The test itself takes fewer than 15 minutes.
Our staff members are experts at performing imaging tests for kids who use seating systems or wear metal fixators following limb-length surgery. Our facility features specialized lifts and equipment for kids that have disabilities, complex conditions or serious injury.
In the fluoroscopy exam room, we have a positive distraction unit on the wall to help distract children during the procedure. Your child can choose videos to watch during a fluoroscopy exam. If your child doesn’t want or need to use the positive distraction unit, you can ask a child life specialist to offer alternatives to help calm and distract—for example, toys and tablets.
In some cases, you can be with your child during the exam. We’ll provide anyone in the exam room with a protective apron to wear as a precaution. When a parent or caregiver can’t be in the room, a two-way speaker allows communication back and forth from our control room. It’s important, however, to avoid interfering with the instructions of the X-ray technologist.
The entire appointment takes about 60 minutes and includes:
A speech and language pathologist asks about your child’s swallowing problems and answers questions about fluoroscopy. The speech and language pathologist stays with your child throughout the appointment.
Your child’s community feeding therapist, such as a speech and language pathologist or an occupational therapist, is also welcome to attend the appointment.
Your child sits in a feeding chair or an adaptive seat with a seatbelt for safety.
A speech and language pathologist gives your child food mixed with a solution containing barium, which helps us more easily see the food’s movement in X-ray images. Depending on your child’s age, the food might be a liquid, pudding or some other soft solid, or a hard solid.
During the test, the speech and language pathologist might try several types of food and feeding utensils, such as cups, bottles, straws or syringes, to help your child swallow more easily.
We encourage you to stay in the exam room and talk positively about the food and drink used during the test. This will encourage your child to try them.
Our process allows for a thorough, accurate exam while exposing your child to the smallest amount of radiation necessary. We’ll use a protective apron to cover parts of the body that don’t need examining. The fluoroscopy machine will make some beeping and clicking noises during the exam.
As your child eats and drinks, the radiologist or radiology practitioner assistant records the eating and swallowing movements with a special X-ray video camera. The camera comes near—but doesn’t touch—your child.
It’s important for you and your child to remain calm during the exam. Your child needs to stay very still during the exam. When possible, you can reassure your child by talking to them, holding their hands, and distracting them with familiar stories or thinking games (like spelling, addition, etc.).
In the rare event that a patient needs respiratory support while undergoing a fluoroscopy exam, our respiratory therapy team provides expert care during the procedure to ensure the highest standards of safety.
After a Fluoroscopy Exam
If your child receives sedation medicine, they will go to the recovery area so that we can watch them until the medicine wears off.
The speech and language pathologist will meet with patients and their families to discuss the results and explain our recommendations. For example, we might advise parents or caregivers to work with the patient’s health care team to develop a feeding plan.
We’ll send the results to the doctor who ordered the exam—usually within 48 hours. If the results are urgent, we’ll contact the doctor immediately. To receive the results, contact the doctor who ordered the scan.
At Gillette, you’ll work with a team that specializes in providing imaging tests for children and teens who have disabilities. You’ll have access to a child-friendly atmosphere and if needed, types of sedation to make fluoroscopy exams a smooth experience.
We collaborate with St. Paul Radiology to provide expert reading of pediatric imaging studies. St. Paul Radiology is nationally known for its specialized expertise in interpreting radiological studies of children.
All radiology and imaging tests, including fluoroscopy are available at our St. Paul Campus.