An angiogram, or angiography, is an x-ray imaging test for arteries, a type of blood vessel, performed by an interventional radiologist. During the test, the radiologist places a catheter (a small tube) into an artery (either through an artery in the groin or wrist) and injects contrast (x-ray dye) into the vessel and takes x-rays of that area.
One of the most common reasons for needing an angiogram is having symptoms that suggest blockage of an artery. This test can identify the exact location where the artery is blocked, if it is severe, and what is causing the blockage.
Another common reason is the presence of an aneurysm in the body. An aneurysm is an area of the vessel (artery) that has ballooned out. Even if this has been detected by other studies such as ultrasound, CAT scan, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), an angiogram may be necessary to see more in detail and to plan the method of treatment.
This test has three major steps:
- Insertion of a small catheter (plastic tube) into the body
- Injection of contrast into an artery while x-ray images are being taken
- Removal of the catheter.
Patients preparing for this procedure should follow instructions from physicians and other healthcare professionals. Often patients are advised not to eat solid foods after midnight the night before the procedure. As always, patients should inform their physicians of any allergies, illnesses, and medications---in this case, contrast and iodyne allergies, and blood thinners and insulin are particularly important.
Patients discharged after an angiogram should follow all instructions. Instructions often include rest, plenty of fluids to drink, and keeping the bandages on the catheter site for 24 hours. Patients are generally advised not to bathe for 12 hours, not to smoke, drive or operate heavy machinery for 24 hours, and to avoid strenuous exercise and lifting for two days.