X-Ray and Fluoroscopy

X-rays offer a quick, reliable method of viewing the body’s internal structures. Fluoroscopy is a sophisticated type of X-ray that creates moving images of body functions. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is among the safest places in Southern California to receive these tests.

Your child receives services from highly skilled pediatric radiologists who perform tests using the lowest necessary radiation dose. We offer advanced options to guide comprehensive evaluations and therapies that give your child the best chances of healing.
 

Pediatric X-Ray and Fluoroscopy: Why Choose Us

Children’s Hospital is home to a team of radiologists specializing in pediatric imaging. We work alongside other experts to coordinate appropriate tests and prompt interpretations that keep your child’s care moving forward. Meet our team.

Highlights of our program include:

  • Child-friendly atmosphere: We take extra steps to help your child have the most pleasant experience possible. In many cases, a parent is allowed in the imaging area. If your child is anxious, our certified Child Life specialists can help. They use various techniques to ease the stress and uncertainty that comes with certain medical exams, such as X-ray and fluoroscopy.
  • Focus on safety: Children’s Hospital takes extra steps to minimize radiation exposure during X-ray and fluoroscopy tests. We use technologies that control X-ray beam delivery and radiation dose. These efforts enable us to capture crisp images of test areas while protecting nearby tissue.
  • Advanced care: We often use fluoroscopy to deliver sophisticated treatments without surgery. Our pediatric interventional radiologists carry out these procedures with a high degree of precision. Procedures include placing stents in narrowed blood vessels to keep them open and inserting feeding (gastrostomy) tubes directly into the stomach.
  • Pediatric anesthesiology: For some fluoroscopy procedures, it’s safer and more comfortable to put your child to sleep. Children’s Hospital is one of the few pediatric programs in Southern California offering sedation services for radiology procedures. Our highly skilled pediatric anesthesiologists deliver medications that help your child feel relaxed and sleepy.
     

How Do X-Ray and Fluoroscopy Tests Work?

Here’s how these tests work:

X-ray

This test uses a burst of radiation to produce still pictures of internal structures. The body absorbs the energy in varying degrees depending on tissue density. Bones absorb more radiation and appear white. Soft tissue, including organs and muscles, are less dense and absorb less radiation. They appear in shades of gray.

X-rays take minutes to complete and require no patient preparation. If your child is experiencing acute symptoms, this test can provide care teams with answers that lead to a quick, accurate diagnosis.

In some cases, a special dye (contrast material) highlights specific areas. Depending on the test area, the contrast material may be a substance your child swallows, or we inject it into a vein.

Fluoroscopy

Fluoroscopy uses radiation and a special camera to produce moving images of organ functioning, similar to a short movie. We often use this method to assess organs in the upper or lower digestive system.

Fluoroscopy makes it possible to detect diseases and abnormalities in ways that are not possible with X-rays. This test requires more radiation than an X-ray, but we use the lowest necessary dose.

Instead of a radiation burst, fluoroscopy uses a continuous X-ray beam. The images appear on a monitor in real-time. Contrast dye is typically necessary for fluoroscopy procedures and may require preparation, such as having an empty stomach. Fluoroscopy tests take longer than X-rays, up to several hours in some cases.
 

Getting an X-Ray or Fluoroscopy Test: What to Expect

Before the test, we provide you with information about what to expect and how to prepare. To find out more, read our radiology and imaging patient and family resources.

What to expect during an X-ray

During an X-ray, here's what happens:

  1. Your child lays on an exam table.
  2. When contrast is necessary, your child receives dye before the test.
  3. Our technologist positions your child in a specific way to optimize imaging. In young children, supports may be necessary to hold the correct position.
  4. The technologist goes into a booth and activates the machine to release a targeted burst of radiation.
  5. Radiation passes through the body and records a still image of internal structures on a special detector plate.
  6. It may be necessary to reposition your child and repeat the process to capture images from multiple angles.

What to expect during fluoroscopy

For fluoroscopy tests, here’s what happens:

  1. Depending on the area of the body we’re assessing, your child may stand up or lay down for the test. Children undergoing sedation lie down.
  2. The technologist positions your child in a specific way.
  3. We give the contrast material. For bowel exams, we may deliver it with an enema. For bladder testing, a catheter may be necessary.
  4. For some exams, we may need to wait for the contrast dye to reach the exam area. In other cases, the test will start right away.
  5. The technologist activates the fluoroscopy machine (fluoroscope).
  6. The fluoroscope captures moving images of the exam area.
     

Specialized X-ray and Fluoroscopy Tests We Offer

Children’s Hospital offers a broad range of X-ray fluoroscopy tests, including:

  • Chest X-ray, which we use to evaluate and monitor conditions affecting the chest. These include shortness of breath, and heart and lung problems. Read more about chest X-ray.
  • Dual-X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan, which measures how much calcium is in the bones. This test, also known as bone density scanning, assesses bone mass and fracture risk in children at risk for weakened bones.
  • Esophagram, which focuses on the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth and stomach. We may recommend an esophagram if your child has trouble swallowing, uncontrolled vomiting or chokes frequently.
  • Lower GI series, which examines the lower part of the small intestine, colon and rectum. A lower GI series may be necessary in children with chronic diarrhea, intestinal blockages or fecal incontinence.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series, which enables us to assess the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine. This test evaluates issues such as ulcers and reflux.
  • Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG), which examines the urinary system. We use VCUG to evaluate issues affecting the bladder, urethra and other nearby organs.
     

Comprehensive Radiology and Imaging Services for Children

We offer the full range of radiology and imaging studies at our main hospital, in one convenient location. Some of these services are also available at locations throughout the Los Angeles region. Find out more about Radiology and Imaging.