What is an Angiogram?
An angiogram is an imaging test that uses x-rays to view your body's blood vessels. It is used to study narrow, blocked, enlarged or malformed arteries or veins in many parts of your body. When arteries are studied, the test is called an arteriogram and when veins are studied, it is called a venogram.
To create the x-ray images, a “dye” is injected through a thin flexible tube called a catheter. The catheter is threaded into the desired artery or vein via the groin. This “dye” is called contrast and makes the blood flowing inside the blood vessels visible on an x-ray.
If a problem is discovered during an angiogram it can sometimes be treated at that time. Your physician may be able to dissolve the clot that he/she discovers. A physician may also be able to perform an angioplasty and stenting procedure to clear blocked arteries during an angiogram.
Preparation for the test:
Your physician may tell you to stop taking aspirin or other drugs that prevent clotting. You will be asked not to eat or drink anything within 6hours of your test. Depending on your situation, you may be asked to take extra fluid before the test. Sometimes this fluid will be given to you intravenously. If you have problems with your kidneys, you may benefit from medication and extra intravenous fluid.
Please bring someone with you as you shouldn't drive immediately after an angiogram.
What to expect during the test:
Your test will take place in a room with a special x-ray machine. An IV will be inserted to provide you with fluids and medications. Your physician numbs the insertion site for the catheter (usually the groin) with a local anesthetic and makes a tiny puncture to reach the artery below. The artery is punctured with a hollow needle and a thin wire is advanced through the needle. A catheter is threaded over the wire and guided to the desired location. Your physician uses x-ray to see the catheter as it moves through your arteries.
Once the catheter has been correctly positioned, he/she injects the contrast dye. You will experience a brief, mild warm feeling as it enters your bloodstream. During the test you may be asked to hold your breath for about 5 to 15 seconds. In addition you may be asked to lie perfectly still to prevent sudden movements from blurring the x-ray pictures.
Angiograms generally take about 1 hour to complete if only x-rays are required. If an angioplasty or stenting is needed this will take longer than an hour.
What to expect after the test:
After the test, the medical team will monitor you for about 2-4 hours. You will be asked to drink fluids to prevent dehydration and flush the dye from your kidneys. Once any bleeding from the insertion site has stopped and your vital signs are normal you will be allowed to leave. At home you can eat normally, but you should drink extra fluids for a couple of days. For at least 12 hours after the angiogram, strenuous activity should be avoided. This includes such activities as climbing stairs, driving and brisk walking. You should be able to resume normal activities within a couple of days.
Potential complications include:
Complications from angioplasty may include bleeding, pain, or swelling at the catheter insertion site or pain, numbness, or coolness in your arm and leg. These symptoms may signify either bleeding from the puncture site or blockage of your artery. Bruising at the puncture site is common and usually resolves on its own. Impaired kidney function, or kidney failure can occur especially if you already have kidney disease but this is rare. Also rarely, severe allergic reactions can occur, especially among people who have had previous allergic reactions to dye. A patient may experience shortness of breath or fluid overload if they have a heart condition associated with a poor pump, such as congestive heart failure.