X-ray and fluoroscopy are imaging procedures that can help your doctors diagnose, treat, and monitor a wide range of health conditions. These procedures are very similar to one another. Still, they have significant differences you should know about if your doctors recommend one.

Here’s a closer look at the differences between X-ray and fluoroscopy and how to contact Lompoc Valley Medical Center for an appointment if you need an imaging test.

What Are they?

What is an X-Ray?

An X-ray uses radiation to show images of the inside of your body. The X-ray machine sends small X-ray particles through your body, then records the images on a computer. This imaging test allows your doctors to view your bones, organs, and soft tissues.

X-ray tests can be performed at your healthcare provider’s clinic or in the radiology department of a hospital. These tests are fast, easy, and painless. However, they may expose your body to a low level of radiation.

An X-ray appointment requires very little preparation. Your doctors may ask you a few questions to ensure it’s safe for you to have an X-ray. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), your doctors will want to know if you are pregnant or have a medical device inserted like an intrauterine device (IUD).

Then, you will get asked to remove all jewelry and metal pieces from your body that could interfere with the X-ray. That includes body piercings, eyeglasses, and rings. Some doctors may even have you change into a hospital gown.

During the X-ray scan, your doctor will ask you to remain still. That will help stop the X-ray photos from coming out blurry. You may also get asked to hold your breath a few times.

After the X-ray images have been taken, you will be free to resume your usual daily activities.

What Is a Fluoroscopy?

Fluoroscopy is also an X-ray. However, instead of capturing still images, fluoroscopy works like a movie. This imaging test allows your doctors to view all your internal structures in real-time. For example, it shows how your lungs work when you breathe. Like a standard X-ray, fluoroscopy can be performed at your doctor’s office or in the radiology department of a hospital.

Fluoroscopy tests may require a little more preparation than a standard X-ray. This test may need you to drink a liquid that contains contrast dye.

Contrast dye is a solution that helps your internal structures show up more clearly on the computer. Most contrast dye solutions are drinkable, though some healthcare providers may give it to you as an injection or enema, reports the NIH. Your doctors may also ask you not to eat or drink for several hours before the test.

After drinking the contrast dye solution, your doctors will ask you to change into a hospital gown. They will also ask you to remove all jewelry, including watches, eyeglasses, and body piercings. Your doctors will then have you lie or sit on a table so they can use the X-ray machine to watch the inside of your body on a computer screen.

You can return home or resume your usual activities when your fluoroscopy gets done. Your doctors may ask you to stay and recover for a few hours before leaving if your test involves a catheter to monitor a heart problem. Your doctors can give you specific instructions on what to expect based on the reasons for your test.

What are They Used For?

X-Ray are Used For

X-ray tests commonly examine your bones and joints. Fractures, dental problems, spine injuries, and lung problems are among the top reasons your doctor may order an X-ray test. An X-ray can also help detect digestive issues, cancers, heart problems, and blocked blood vessels.

X-rays are widely used in many medical specialties. However, dentists and orthopedic doctors may use them the most.

Common types of X-rays include bone X-rays, chest X-rays, and dental X-rays. Skull X-ray, sinus X-ray, and neck X-ray are common X-ray tests.

Fluoroscopy is Used For

Fluoroscopy has many different uses. Your doctor may order this test to diagnose reproductive issues, blood flow problems, and spine fractures. They may also use it to guide injections or medical devices into certain parts of your body.

What Are the Benefits?

Benefits of X-Ray

X-ray tests are generally stress-free because they are painless, quick, and non-invasive. X-ray requires no sedation or anesthesia. These tests can help your doctors diagnose and monitor health conditions, as well as treatments. They can also help your doctors guide medical devices like catheters and stents inside your body without damaging other organs and tissues.

Benefits of Fluoroscopy

Like X-ray, fluoroscopy tests are non-invasive. According to the CDC, these tests can help doctors get a better look at your organs, tissues, bones, and blood vessels. They can help figure out whether you need surgery. They can also help doctors guide joint replacements, catheters, stents, and other devices inside the body. Fluoroscopy can even help locate blood clots, tumors, and other internal blockages.

What Are the Risks

X-Ray Risks

X-ray is a painless and non-invasive test; however, it comes with risks like any other medical procedure. Most medical experts say that the benefits of X-rays greatly outweigh any potential risks, including for those who are pregnant or at risk for cancer.

Regarding radiation exposure, the FDA warns that X-rays may damage your DNA. It also says that people exposed to X-rays have a slight increase in the possibility of developing cancer later in life. It warns that high levels of radiation exposure may cause hair loss, cataracts, and reddening of the skin, though these effects are rare.

The risk of getting cancer from an X-ray is generally tiny. Cancer risk depends on the radiation dose, the part of the body tested, and the patient’s age and gender. For example, the cancer risk is higher for patients who received a lot of X-rays at a young age.

If you are concerned about having an X-ray, talk to your doctors. Your doctors can discuss your options for other imaging tests and about benefits that outweigh the risks.

Fluoroscopy Risks

Fluoroscopy is a type of X-ray, which means it has nearly all the same risks as a standard X-ray test. An additional danger of having fluoroscopy is an adverse reaction to the contrast dye.

Tell your doctor if you have any allergies, especially shellfish or iodine. Some contrast dyes may contain these ingredients. You should also tell your doctors if you have ever had a reaction to contrast dye in the past. If you have reacted to contrast dye, your doctors may use a safer contrast solution. They may also recommend an imaging test like a standard X-ray that does not use contrast dye.

Fluoroscopy may come with a slightly higher radiation risk than a standard X-ray. That is because the X-ray machine must stay over your body for a more extended period to create the live video feed. Standard X-rays are usually much quicker than fluoroscopy. That is because they take a series of photos instead of filming the movements of your insides.

Should I Choose An X-Ray Or Fluoroscopy?

In most cases, your doctors will recommend an X-ray or fluoroscopy based on the reason for your test. An X-ray may be better than fluoroscopy at diagnosing certain medical conditions and vice versa. For example, an X-ray may be better for looking at broken bones. Fluoroscopy may be better for looking at the reproductive organs in a woman with fertility issues.

Be completely open and honest with your doctors so they can recommend the best test for you. If you have any allergies, mention them to your doctors so they can choose the right type of contrast dye. If you think you may be pregnant but aren’t sure, mention this to your doctor. To avoid exposing your potential fetus to radiation, they will have you take a pregnancy test.

Your healthcare team can also discuss the pros and cons of X-ray and fluoroscopy. They can make you feel more comfortable and confident about having these tests.

For the best results and to ensure your safety, choose a radiology provider that uses high-quality equipment certified by the American College of Radiology. You may also want to keep records of all your imaging tests so you can keep track of your radiation exposure.

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