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    Transillumination

    Transillumination is the shining of a light through a body area or organ.

    How the Test is Performed

    The room lights are dimmed or turned off so that the appropriate part of the body may be seen more easily. A bright light is then pointed at a location on the body, typically the head, scrotum, chest of a premature or newborn infant,or breast of an adult female.

    Transillumination is also sometimes used to find blood vessels.

    How to Prepare for the Test

    No preparation is necessary for this test.

    How the Test Will Feel

    There is no discomfort associated with this test.

    Why the Test is Performed

    This test may be done along with other tests to diagnose:

    • Hydrocephalus in newborns or infants
    • Hydrocele in males
    • Breast lesions or cysts in females

    In newborns, a bright halogen light may be used to transilluminate the chest cavity if there are signs of a collapsed lung or air around the heart. (Transillumination through the chest is only possible on small newborns.)

    Normal Results

    Normal findings depend on the area being evaluated, and the normal tissue of that region.

    What Abnormal Results Mean

    Areas filled with abnormal air or fluid will light up when they should not. For example, in a darkened room, the head of a newborn with possible hydrocephalus will light up when this procedure is done.

    When done on the breast:

    • Internal areas will be dark to black if there is a lesion and bleeding has occurred (because blood does not transilluminate).
    • Benign tumors tend to appear red.
    • Malignant tumors are brown to black.

    Risks

    There are no risks associated with this test.

    Considerations

    In general, transillumination is not a particularly good test for any of these above-mentioned disorders, and further tests, such as an x-ray or ultrasound, are needed to confirm the diagnosis.

    References

    Elder JS. Disorders and anomalies of the scrotal contents. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 539.

    Haddad GG, Green TP. Diagnostic approach to respiratory disease. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 366.

    Valea FA, Katz VL. Breast diseases: Diagnosis and treatment of benign and malignant disease. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 15.

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    • Infant brain test

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      • Infant brain test

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      Tests for Transillumination

      Review Date: 11/21/2011

      Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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