An angiogram is an X-ray image of the blood vessels that is used to diagnose conditions of the vascular system, such as:
- Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
- Vascular malformations
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
- Renovascular conditions
- Aortic arch conditions
- Pulmonary emboli
In addition to diagnosing a condition, doctors may also address related issues during the angiogram. During an angiogram, it is not uncommon for procedures such as angioplasty or stent repairs to be performed as well.
Getting Ready for an AngiogramTo prepare for your angiogram, your doctor will need to assess the medications you currently take, measure how well your blood clots, document any allergies you may have, and your assess your kidney function. Typically, food and drink is prohibited within six hours of your procedure. Additionally, your doctor may have you stop taking aspirin and other blood thinners leading up to an angiogram. Preparation procedures vary by patient, so be sure to consult with your doctor.
Be aware that individuals that have blood clotting issues, kidney problems, or are obese may be at higher risk for developing complications during and after the procedure.
During Your AngiogramTypically, patients are awake during an angiogram and mild sedatives and local anesthetics are used. Once your IV is connected, your doctor will then determine the point of insertion for the catheter. This is usually in your groin, but can also be in your arm. At the insertion site, your skin will be cleaned, any hair will be shaved, and a local anesthetic will be administered. Your doctor will then insert a hollow needle into your artery and the catheter will be threaded through the needle to reach the correct position within the blood vessel. As the catheter is positioned, X-rays of the area will be projected onto a screen so that the procedure is visible to your doctor. Once the catheter reaches the desired location, special dye will be injected into the bloodstream. As the dye flows through your blood vessels, your doctor will continue to capture X-ray images of the dye’s progress. In order to ensure clear X-ray images, you may need to stay still and may even need to hold your breath for up to 15 seconds at a time.
When your doctor is satisfied with the clarity and range of the X-ray images, the catheter will be removed and pressure will be applied to the point of insertion. An angiogram that is performed for diagnostic purposes takes about an hour to execute, followed by up to six hours of monitoring in the hospital. Following the procedure, your vital signs will be monitored, fluids will be administered to prevent dehydration and eliminate the dye from your system, and the insertion site should stay immobile to reduce bleeding. Once you are cleared to leave the hospital, you should arrange a ride home, as driving is prohibited after the procedure.
While you recover from the procedure, avoid exercise and all rigorous activities (including walking, driving, and going up or down stairs), drink extra fluids, and eat normally. Typically, your doctor will recommend waiting a day or two to return to your normal activities.
Risks & Complications
An angiogram is a minimally invasive procedure. Nevertheless, complications may occur, including:
- Bruising at the insertion site
- Bleeding, pain or swelling at the insertion site
- Coolness or numbness in the arm or leg (depending on the site of insertion) due to blocked artery or continued bleeding from the insertion site
- Impaired kidney function or kidney failure
- Allergic reaction to dye
- Shortness of breath or fluid overload