Angiography is a minimally invasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Angiography uses one of three imaging technologies and, in some cases, a contrast material to produce pictures of major blood vessels throughout the body.
In catheter angiography, a thin plastic tube, called a catheter, is inserted into an artery through a small incision in the skin. Once the catheter is guided to the area being examined, a contrast material is injected through the tube and images are captured using a small dose of ionizing radiation (X-rays).
How should I prepare?
- You should inform your physician of any medications you are taking and if you have any allergies, especially to barium or iodinated contrast materials. Also inform your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
- You may be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and to wear a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the X-ray images.
- Women should always inform their physician or X-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
- If you are going to be given a sedative during the procedure, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything for four to eight hours before your exam. Be sure that you have clear instructions from your health care facility.
- If you are sedated, you should not drive for 24 hours after your exam and you should arrange for someone to drive you home.
What should I expect?
- Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your exam to register (Please bring your insurance card and a form of identification).
- This examination is usually performed on an outpatient basis.
- A nurse inserts an intravenous (IV) line into a small vein in your hand or arm.
- A small amount of blood will be drawn before starting the procedure to make sure that your kidneys are working and that your blood will clot normally. A small dose of sedative may be given through the IV line to lessen your anxiety during the procedure.
- The area of the groin or arm where the catheter will be inserted is shaved, cleaned, and numbed with local anesthetic. The physician will make a small incision (usually a few millimeters) in the skin where the catheter can be inserted into an artery.
- The catheter is then guided through the arteries to the area to be examined. After the contrast material is injected through the catheter and reaches the blood vessels being studied, several sets of X-rays are taken. Then the catheter is removed and the incision site is closed by placing pressure on the area for approximately 10 to 20 minutes (or by using a special closure device).
- When the examination is complete, you will go to radiology to recover for approximately four hours of observation and will be discharged from there after observation.
- The catheter angiogram is typically performed in less than an hour; however, it may last several hours.
What will I experience during and after the procedure?
- Prior to beginning the procedure, you will be asked to empty your bladder.
- You will feel a slight pin prick when the needle is inserted into your vein for the intravenous line (IV).
- Injecting a local anesthetic at the site where the catheter is inserted may sting briefly, but it will make the rest of the procedure pain-free.
- You will not feel the catheter in your artery, but when the contrast material is injected, you may have a feeling of warmth or a slight burning sensation. The most difficult part of the procedure may be lying flat for several hours. During this time, you should inform the nurse if you notice any bleeding, swelling or pain at the site where the catheter entered the skin.
- You may resume your normal diet immediately after the exam. You will be able to resume all other normal activities eight to 12 hours after the exam.
How will I find out my results?
After the procedure, your physician will receive a copy of your results to discuss with you.