Fluoroscopy is a technique that employs x-rays to generate real-time still images or video of a patient's body. It is a commonly used medical technique that helps physicians with a wide variety of diagnostic and interventional procedures.
The x-rays pass through the body and create an image on a detector, which is then transmitted to a monitor for viewing by the physician. Thus, a part of the body that is radio-opaque or made so by the use of a dye or a contrast agent can be visualized. Similarly, an instrument or device or movement of internal body parts can be displayed.
Fluoroscopy can be used in many types of orthopedic procedures, such as manipulation of broken bones in fracture reduction or insertion of implants or injections and checking appropriate positioning or alignment.
Fluoroscopy involves the use of ionizing radiation and, therefore, is relatively contraindicated in pregnant women due to potential harmful effects on a developing fetus. As in any clinical intervention, the potential risks must outweigh the intended benefits.
A fluoroscope in its simplest form (although rarely, if ever, used now) is an x-ray source at one end and a fluorescent screen at the other end. The part of the body that is to be imaged is placed between these ends. Low-dose radiation is used, and modern fluoroscopes couple the screen to an x-ray image intensifier to brighten the image sufficiently so as to be displayed as still images or video on a monitor.
Currently used fluoroscopic equipment and safety measures help reduce the risks associated with fluoroscopy. These include the following:
- Display of the duration, rate, and cumulative amount of radiation exposure patients receive
- Increased x-ray filtration to reduce the possibility of radiation injuries during long procedures
- Tighter controls on the size of the x-ray field to reduce the amount of radiation that falls outside the image target area
- A last-image-hold feature that allows the physician to view images without continually exposing patients to radiation
A C-arm is a mobile fluoroscopic unit with the x-ray source at one end and the image detector at the other end. The C-arm unit allows for greater operator flexibility, and the equipment can be moved to wherever the fluoroscopic examination is needed. A C-arm is commonly used in operating rooms where orthopedic procedures are performed to visualize bones or implants. Carlson Orthopedic uses this for fracture setting, injection placement among other procedures.