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Angiogram

What is an angiogram?
What can angiography diagnose?
How should I prepare for an angiogram?
How is an angiogram done?
What happens right after the test?
When will I learn the results?
When can I return to work?
What are the risks from angiography?

What is an angiogram?

An angiogram is an x-ray study of a blood vessel. Blood vessels are not normally seen in x-rays, so we use contrast dye to make them visible. Most often, angiography studies arteries, the vessels that carry blood from your heart to the body. Occasionally, angiograms are done of veins, the vessels that carry blood from your body to the heart.

What can angiography diagnose?

  • Narrowing of the blood vessels of the legs
  • Narrowing of the arteries to the brain
  • Aneurysms, or dilations of the blood vessels of the brain
  • Malformations of blood vessels
  • Liver tumors
  • Narrowing of the blood vessels of the kidney

How should I prepare for an angiogram?

  • A nurse will contact you a day or so before your procedure and ask you some questions about your health history, as well as answer any questions you may have.
  • In general, you should not have any meals after midnight the night before your angiogram.
  • You should take all of your regular medications up to the time of the procedure.
  • You will meet a radiologist before the procedure to discuss the reasons for, and the risks from, your angiogram. The radiologist will ask you to sign an informed consent form, indicating that you have had a chance to ask questions about the procedure.
  • Plan to have someone take you home after the procedure.

How is an angiogram done?

Angiograms are performed in a special room in the Radiology department.

  • A radiology technologist will clean an area of your groin and shave it if necessary. A surgical sheet will be placed over you to keep that area sterile.
  • The radiologist will inject a small amount of local anesthetic into your groin so that you do not feel any pain during the procedure.
  • Your radiologist will insert a very narrow wire into your artery using a small needle. You will not feel this procedure. He or she will then place a narrow plastic tube (catheter) into your artery.
  • Using a TV monitor to view the procedure, your radiologist will inject x-ray contrast dye into the catheter and take pictures of your arteries. Sometimes when the x-ray dye is injected, it feels warm or mildly uncomfortable. This feeling always passes quickly.

What happens right after the test?

  • You will be taken to the recovery area and the catheter will be removed from your groin.
  • To prevent a blood clot from forming, the radiologist will apply direct pressure to your leg for ten to fifteen minutes.
  • Nurses will monitor you for about four to six hours, and then you should be ready to go home.

When will I learn the results?

You will usually have the results of your angiogram before you leave the hospital. A formal report will be sent to your doctor within three days. You can then discuss possible treatments.

When can I return to work?

We recommend that you plan to take the entire day off after your procedure, so your body can form a strong plug in the hole in your artery. The day after your procedure, it is all right to return to light activity, but you should plan to avoid heavy lifting for 48-72 hours after your procedure.

What are the risks from angiography?

Risks from angiography are rare, but include:

  • Infection at the injection site, which is readily treated with antibiotics
  • Bruising at the injection site, called a hematoma, which goes away with time
  • There is a very small chance of an allergic reaction to the x-ray contrast dye. It ranges from hives to very rare cases of anaphylaxis or death.
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