Angiography is an image test of blood vessels. A special dye called contrast 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:
- Find blood vessels that are narrowed, enlarged, or blocked
- Look for blood leaking from the blood vessels
- Fix blocked blood vessels
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Allergic reaction or kidney damage from the contrast dye
- Abnormal heartbeats, called arrhythmias
- Injury to nearby structures or organs
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
- Kidney problems
- Bleeding disorders
- Allergies—mainly to contrast dye, iodine, or medicine
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The doctor may meet with you to talk about:
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the test
- Whether you need a ride to and from the test
The doctor will give local anesthesia—the area will be numbed. Other medicine may help you relax.
Description of the Procedure
A small incision will be made in the groin, upper thigh, arm, or neck. A catheter (tube) will be passed through the incision into a blood vessel. The tube will be passed through blood vessels to the problem area. A contrast dye will be passed through the tube. It will highlight the blood vessels on a screen in the room. The tube will be removed. Pressure will be applied to the insertion site for a few minutes. A bandage will be placed over the site.
How Long Will It Take?
Less than an hour. It can take longer if the doctor fixes any problems at the same time.
Will It Hurt?
It should not hurt. There may be:
- A brief sting when the numbing medicine is injected
- Pressure when the tube is inserted
- A flushed, hot feeling when the contrast dye is added
You will need to lie flat for some time. It will help to stop bleeding at the insertion site.
Most can go home the same day. The stay will be longer if there are problems.
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 you have:
- Signs of infection such as fever or chills
- Redness, swelling, excess bleeding, or discharge from the site
- Severe sweating, pain, chest pain, nausea, or vomiting
- A leg or arm that feels cold, numb, or tingly, or turns white or blue
- Breathing problems
- Problems speaking or seeing
- Weakness in the face
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help 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 August 25, 2021.
Catheter angiography. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/angiocath. Accessed August 25, 2021.
Coronary angiography. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coronary-angiography . Accessed August 25, 2021.
Diagnostic cardiac catheterization and coronary angiography. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/evaluation/diagnostic-cardiac-catheterization-and-coronary-angiography. Accessed August 25, 2021.
Novak JE, Handa R. Contrast nephropathy associated with percutaneous coronary angiography and intervention. Cardiol Clin. 2019;37(3):287-296.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
- Review Date: 07/2021
- Update Date: 08/25/2021