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What is a Fluoroscopy Exam and Why Has Your Veterinarian Requested It For Your Pet?

Fluoroscopy involves a real-time evaluation of your pet’s anatomy and is often used to evaluate abnormalities in the trachea and esophagus.  Unlike an x-ray that takes a still image of your pet, a fluoroscopy exam is a continuous series of x-ray images that allow our board-certified radiologists to see images of the inside of the body in motion. This diagnostic test is often used to evaluate fluctuations of the trachea (wind-pipe) on inhalation and exhalation or how your pet’s esophagus may dilate or contract with the addition of food.   

If your veterinarian suspects a collapsing trachea or an abnormality with your pet’s esophagus, a fluoroscopy exam is a very useful diagnostic test to evaluate the condition.   

What happens with a collapsing trachea? 

The trachea is a tube that carries air to the lungs.  In tracheal collapse, there is a narrowing of the trachea during breathing.  This condition may affect the part of the trachea that is in the neck (cervical trachea) or in the chest (intrathoracic trachea).  If your veterinarian suspects that your pet has a collapsing trachea, a fluoroscopic exam will allow our radiologists to evaluate the severity and location of the collapse.  This information will help your veterinarian to determine a treatment plan for your pet.   

What should I expect with a collapsing trachea fluoroscopy evaluation? 

During the procedure, our radiologist will evaluate your pet’s trachea with fluoroscopy when breathing normally as well as when your pet is coughing.  The procedure is performed without any sedation or general anesthesia and can be performed while you wait.  It is important to not administer any cough suppressants prior to the exam as we need your pet to cough to obtain an accurate study.  In severe cases when cough suppressants are absolutely necessary, please contact our office to inquire about special instructions for your pet.   

What happens with esophageal abnormalities? 

There are abnormalities of the esophagus which can affect your pet’s ability to effectively swallow.  An esophagram (fluoroscopic evaluation of the esophagus) may be recommended by your veterinarian to help determine the cause of any possible esophageal abnormalities as well as the severity of the problem.

What should I expect with a fluoroscopy esophagram evaluation? 

Your pet’s esophagus will be evaluated in three different phases.  The first phase involves your pet swallowing a small amount of liquid barium (a contrast agent) and using the fluoroscopy to follow that fluid from your pet’s mouth all the way to the stomach.  This allows our board-certified radiologists to evaluate for abnormalities such as strictures, expansions, or other abnormalities while your pet is actively swallowing.  The procedure is repeated with barium mixed with canned food and again with barium mixed with kibble.  Each phase offers more information regarding the possible esophageal abnormality.  The procedure does not involve any sedation or general anesthesia and can be performed while you wait.   The information obtained in this study will help your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan for your pet.   

Questions, concerns or not exactly sure what to do?  Call us!  We’re here to help! 

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Animal Imaging – Veterinary Radiology

Your Veterinary Imaging Specialists