What are digital X-rays and fluoroscopy?
Digital X-rays use computers instead of film to capture and store X-ray images. One of the major advantages of digital X-rays is that they use less radiation than traditional X-rays, cutting down on your radiation exposure. Because they’re stored on a computer, digital X-rays can be transmitted from one healthcare provider to another with greater ease, plus they can be enhanced and viewed in different ways to make it easier for your healthcare provider to diagnose a medical condition or monitor treatment progress. And finally, because they don’t rely on chemicals for image processing, digital X-rays can yield results much more quickly than traditional film X-rays.
X-rays are most commonly used to evaluate bones and to obtain images of the lungs and chest cavity, but they have many other applications as well, including the detection and diagnosis of cancer. Fluoroscopy uses X-rays and fluorescent light to produce moving images that help your doctor visualize processes going on inside your body. Like digital X-rays, fluoroscopy can be used for diagnosis, and it can also be used in some types of medical procedures to help guide the surgical instruments.
What are contrast studies?
Contrast studies use dyes or other substances that improve visualization of the inside structures of your body during an X-ray or fluoroscopy. Dyes are usually injected while other substances like barium are swallowed or administered through an enema. Barium is a white, chalky substance that “clings” to the surfaces of your organs so they show up better on the final images. At Windsor Radiology, we perform many types of contrast studies, including:
An esophagram is a fluoroscopic examination of your throat and esophagus. It’s also called a “barium swallow” because you’ll be asked to swallow a solution containing the contrast agent barium that helps highlight the esophagus and throat.
Upper GI series
GI stands for gastrointestinal, and in these studies, images are made of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first part of your small intestine). As with the esophagram, you’ll need to drink barium before the exam begins.
Small bowel series
Like the name implies, these images focus on your small intestine and they also use ingested barium as the contrast agent. A small bowel series is often combined with an upper GI series for a more complete look at your GI tract.
Lower GI series
These images focus on your large intestine and rectum. You’ll be given a barium enema prior to the exam, and in some cases, a small amount of air will be pumped into your intestine as well to aid in visualizing the interior.
An arthrogram is used to assess the structures of a joint, and it also uses an injected contrast agent to improve visualization of the joint. An arthrogram is often performed in conjunction with an MRI or CT of the same joint.
What to expect during your X-ray or fluoroscopy
If you’re having a barium series, you’ll need to stop eating and drinking for a few hours before the exam. Our office will give you instructions before the exam date so you can prepare. Just before your X-ray or fluoroscopy series, you’ll need to remove any jewelry and you may be asked to change into a dressing gown. The length of the exam depends on the whether you’re having a single X-ray, a series of X-rays or a fluoroscopy exam. In any case, you’ll be able to go home after your exam and one of our board-certified radiologists will review the results. A final report will be sent to your doctor.