An angiography is an image test of blood vessels. A special dye is used with the test. It will make the blood vessels easier to see.
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Reasons for Procedure
Angiography may be done to do one or more of the following:
- Find blood vessels that are narrowed, enlarged, or blocked
- Look for blood that may be leaking from the blood vessels to another part of the body
- Fix blocked blood vessels
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will review potential problems such as:
- Allergic reaction to the chemical used
- Abnormal heartbeats, called arrhythmias
- Bleeding where the catheter was placed
- Damage to blood vessels—this can lead to organ and tissue damage
- Kidney damage from contrast matter
The risk of complications is higher for people with:
- Kidney problems
- Bleeding disorders
- Allergies—mainly to contrast matter, iodine, or medicine
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The doctor will review previous tests. You may also be asked to stop certain medicine.
Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
Medicine will be used to numb the site of injection. A sedative may also be given to help you relax.
Description of the Procedure
An area on the groin, upper thigh, arm, or neck will be cleaned. A small cut will be made. A catheter (tube) will be passed through the cut into a blood vessel. The tube will be passed through blood vessels to the problem area. A dye will be passed through the tube. It will highlight the blood vessels on a screen in the room. When the test is complete the tube will be removed. Pressure will be applied to the insertion site for 10 minutes. A bandage will be placed over the area.
How Long Will It Take?
Less than an hour. It can take many hours if the doctor decides to fix any problems at the same time.
How Much Will It Hurt?
It is not painful, but you may feel:
- A brief sting when the numbing medicine is injected
- Pressure when the tube is inserted
- Hot and flushed when the dye is added
You will need to lie flat for some time. It will help to stop bleeding at the insertion site. The length of stay depends on why the test was needed and overall health.
Most can return to normal activity within a couple of days.
The doctor will talk to you about the results. You may need further testing or treatment.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these happen:
- Signs of infection such as fever or chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the site
- Extreme sweating, nausea, or vomiting
- Extreme pain
- Extreme chest pain
- Leg or arm feels cold, turns white or blue, or becomes numb or tingly
- Trouble breathing
- Problems speaking or seeing
- Weakness in the face
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Heart Association https://www.heart.org
Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America https://www.radiologyinfo.org
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
The College of Family Physicians of Canada https://www.cfpc.ca
Angiogram. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at: https://vascular.org/patient-resources/vascular-tests/angiogram. Accessed March 21, 2018.
Catheter angiography. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=angiocath. Updated January 20, 2018. Accessed March 21, 2018.
Coronary angiography. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coronary-angiography. Accessed March 21, 2018.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
- Review Date: 03/2019
- Update Date: 03/21/2019