Angiogram Procedure – An Overview
An angiogram procedure is an advanced x-ray test that requires the use of specialized dye and imaging technology (fluoroscopy) that is used to examine the state of blood flow in the artery or veins.
This imaging test is also extensively used to examine the other major arteries and veins on the head, arms, legs, back, chest or belly, etc. Mostly, angiogram procedures are required to check the coronary (heart) arteries. This procedure comes under the technique called ‘cardiac (heart) catheterization which involves diagnosing as well as treatment of various cardiac (heart) and blood vessel disorders.
During this procedure the doctor will inject a specialized dye into the blood vessels to make them more visible to the x-ray imaging test. This dye is highly contrasting to the surrounding structures and can be easily distinguished in the x-ray. This detailed x-ray test allows the doctor to see the state of the blood vessels and the heart with regards to their blood supplying abilities.
Why is an Angiogram procedure required?
The doctor will recommend an angiogram procedure, if:
- Symptoms of coronary heart disease such as angina (chest pain) are noticed
- Pain in the chest, jaw, arm or neck whose cause cannot be identified by other tests
- New and irregular chest pain (unstable angina)
- The patient is suffering from congenital heart disorders
- There is a risk of heart failure
- Other blood vessel-related problems or chest injury is seen
- A heart valve problem requires surgical treatment
An angiogram is also useful to detect the problems that affect the blood vessel’s capacity to supply blood to the various parts of the body, such as aneurysms, internal bleeding or blockage in the blood vessel. It is also useful in detecting the presence of a tumor, notice changes in the blood vessels caused due t an injury or damage to the organs. This test is also helpful in determining the condition, location as well as the number of renal arteries prior to a kidney transplant. This test will also help determine the severity of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries.
An angiogram is also required if the patient is scheduled to undergo surgery which is unrelated to the coronary (heart) structure, but the doctor notices an excessive risk of having heart problems due to the surgery.
What are the risks associated with Angiogram Procedure?
As is seen in most procedures performed on the blood vessels or the heart, an angiogram also carries certain risks. Although major complications are rarely seen due to this procedure, there are a few smaller risks that may be seen after an angiogram procedure, such as:
- Heart attack
- Injury to catheterized artery
- Arrhythmia (irregular heart-beat)
- Dye/medication allergy or reaction
- Tear in artery or heart
- Damage to the kidney
- Excessive bleeding
- Radiation overdose due to extended use of x-rays
How to prepare for an Angiogram?
The doctor will advise you on all precautions that will needed to be taken in order to perform a successful angiogram procedure.
The test lasts for a couple of hours and the bladder is required to be empty completely before the test. The doctor may also recommend several blood tests such as coagulation (blood clotting) studies, BUN (blood urea nitrogen) test and creatinine test prior to the angiogram procedure
How is an Angiogram Procedure performed?
An angiogram procedure can be performed by a radiologist, surgeon or a cardiologist with the assistance of radiology technicians and nurses.
This test mostly requires an intravenous injection (IV) line to be attached to a vein in the arm so as to allow the doctor to administer fluids and medications when required.
The imaging device consists of a large and round cylinder or a rectangular box-like instrument that helps in the fluoroscopy.
The doctor will prepare the incision area for the insertion of the catheter in the body. A local anesthetic is applied prior to making the incision. A guide wire is first inserted into the blood vessel through the inserted needle and the needle will be then removed.
The guide wire acts as a pathway for the catheter to be guided into the required blood vessel and pushed into the desired position for the fluoroscopy.
As the catheter is set in place, the doctor will begin the administration of a dye in the body from another IV. Several x-ray images are then taken swiftly by the fluoroscopy device which will help determine any abnormality in the blood vessels of the heart.
This procedure usually takes around 2-3 hours and requires an additional couple of hours of hospital stay for the dye and the medications to be released from your body.
How are the results after an Angiogram Procedure?
An angiogram helps to determine any abnormality in the blood vessels, it can also:
- Show the number of coronary (heart) arteries that are blocked or obstructed by plaque build-up (atherosclerosis)
- Help determine the exact location there the blockages have occurred in the blood vessels
- Show the rate of blood flow in the artery
- Check-up on the results of a previous coronary bypass surgery
- Check the condition of the blood supply in the blood vessels as well as the heart
An angiogram procedure is one of the most useful diagnostic imaging test that can mainly help determine the quality of blood flow in the arteries, veins and the heart as well as help determine the presence of abnormalities or obstruction in the blood vessels that may be the cause of, or may lead to, various coronary (heart) or vascular (blood vessel) conditions and complications.