What is Angiography?
Angiography is a special type of X-ray imaging technique which uses a dye and camera to view images of blood flow in a blood vessel. Blood vessels in the arms, legs, chest, belly, or head, can be viewed by angiography. An angiography examination is called an angiogram.
Angiograms that are commonly done include those which examine the arteries supplying blood to the heart (coronary angiogram). Arteries in the lungs (pulmonary angiogram), and the brain (cerebral angiogram).
Why is an angiogram done?
A doctor would recommend an angiogram for you to detect problems with some of your blood vessels such as bleeding, tears, or abnormal enlargement called aneurysm. It could also be used to check for the condition, location, and size of the arteries supplying the kidneys before a kidney transplant.
Additionally, an angiogram is scheduled to see how bad fat plaques have damaged the coronary arteries. It is also used to check the pattern of blood flow to a cancerous growth.
How is an angiogram done?
Before undergoing this procedure, your doctor would ask you not to eat or drink for up to 8 hours. You may also be asked to take aspirin or blood thinners for a few days before the test.
An angiogram can be done as an outpatient or an inpatient procedure. You may have to do certain tests such as blood clotting profile and kidney function tests before the procedure begins to ensure these are normal.
An angiogram can be done by a radiologist or a cardiologist with the help of some assistants. You would need to take off your jewellery, all or most of your clothes, and wear a gown provided by your hospital or the laboratory.
You will lie on your back on an X-ray table with a lead apron to protect your genitals from radiation. A device called a pulse oximeter may be clipped to your finger to measure your blood’s oxygen levels.
A box or round cylinder which takes the radiographic images would be moved above you, while the fluoroscope which emits the radiation would be moved under your table. A needle is inserted into a blood vessel in an area in your groin or above your elbow. This skin area would be numbed with an anaesthetic, so it feels just like a pinch when it pierces your skin.
A guide wire would be inserted over this needle and the needle would be removed. A catheter is then placed over the guidewire and moved through the blood vessel till it gets to the area needed to be studied.
When the catheter is inserted, the dye is injected through it and several pictures of the blood vessel being studied would be taken and the images displayed on a screen. You would need to hold as still as possible to ensure clarity of the images.
What risks are associated with Angiogram?
Risks associated with an angiogram are quite minimal and non common , but some problems such as an allergic reaction to the dye used, bleeding from dislodgement of the needle or catheter from the blood vessel, and damage to the kidney by the dye may occur. Being a techniques that uses radiation, there is a small risk of developing radiation-associated diseases.