by EBSCO Medical Review Board


A cerebral angiogram is a type of x-ray. A dye highlights the blood vessels in the brain. The dye can also show the flow of blood.

Reasons for Procedure

The x-ray checks for problems with blood vessels such as:

  • Bulges or weak spots in the wall called an aneurysm
  • Tangles such as AVM
  • Narrowing called atherosclerosis
  • Inflammation
  • Tear in wall – vascular dissection

The test can also:

  • Check blood flow to a brain tumor
  • Check health of arteries in the head and neck before a surgery
  • Look for a blood clot that is blocking blood flow (stroke)

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but most tests have some risk. Your doctor will review problems that may happen, such as:

  • Reaction to dye such as a rash or headache
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Kidney damage from the dye
  • Stroke

The risk of problems is higher if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have long-term diseases such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Leading up to the test:

  • Talk to your doctor about the medicines you take. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to 1 week before the test.
  • Arrange for a ride home from the care center.
  • Do not eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery.

Tell your doctor if you are or may be pregnant. The dye may be harmful to your baby.


Local anesthesia will numb an area where the needle is placed.

Description of the Procedure

A cut is made in the upper leg or wrist. A thin tube is passed through the cut into a large blood vessel. An x-ray machine will send constant images to a monitor in the room. The doctor will be able to see the tube and nearby blood vessels. The tube is passed through blood vessels to the area in the brain that needs to be checked. A dye will be released through the tube. It will highlight nearby vessels. The doctor will also be able to see where blood is flowing or blocked.

When the doctor is done, the tube is taken out. Pressure is applied to the area until it stops bleeding. A bandage is placed over the cut.

How Long Will It Take?

1 to 3 hours

Will It Hurt?

You may feel:

  • A sting when needle is placed to numb the insertion site
  • Pressure when the tube is placed
  • Warmth when the dye is added

You will have some soreness for a few days after the procedure.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

You will have to lie flat for a few hours. The care staff will help to manage pain and watch for problems until you can leave.

During your stay, the care team will take steps to lower your chance of infection such as:

  • Wash their hands before contact.
  • Wear gloves or masks as needed.
  • Keep the wound covered.

There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:

  • Wash your hands often. Remind visitors and care team to do the same.
  • Remind your care team to wear gloves or masks as needed.
  • Do not allow others to touch your wound.
At Home

Most can return to a normal routine the day after the test.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Bleeding that does not stop after 15 minutes
  • Blood collects under the wound
  • Signs of infection such as fever or chills
  • Increasing redness, swelling, or pus from the wound
  • Weak muscles in the face, arms, or legs
  • Problems with talking
  • Lightheadedness
  • Problems with breathing
  • Rash

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American Stroke Association 

Society for Vascular Surgery  


Health Canada 

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada 


Cerebral angiogram. Beaumont Hospitals website. Available at: Accessed July 20, 2020.

Cerebral angiography. Patient website. Available at: Accessed July 20, 2020.

Cerebral angiography. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: Accessed July 20, 2020.

Cerebral (brain) angiogram. NYU Langone Health website. Available at: Accessed July 20, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board
  • Review Date: 07/2020
  • Update Date: 07/20/2020