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Definition Return to top
Transillumination is the shining of a light through a body cavity or organ.
How the Test is Performed Return to top
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 Return to top
No preparation is necessary for this test.
How the Test Will Feel Return to top
There is no discomfort associated with this test.
Why the Test is Performed Return to top
This test may be done along with other tests to diagnose:
In newborns, a bright halogen light may be used to transilluminate the chest cavity if there are signs of a collapsed lung. (Transillumination through the chest is only possible on small newborns.)
Normal Results Return to top
Normal findings depend on the area being evaluated, and the normal tissue of that region.
What Abnormal Results Mean Return to top
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:
Risks Return to top
There are no risks associated with this test.
Considerations Return to top
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.Update Date: 11/14/2007 Updated by: Deirdre O’Reilly, M.D., M.P.H., Neonatologist, Division of Newborn Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston and Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.