What Is Angiography? The benefits, and the risks

Everything you need to know about Angiography and Angiogram

By JasonRobertYoungMD (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever known someone who had to go in for a test after having chest pain, horrible cramping leg pain coupled with a lack of pulses in the feet, or mini-stroke type symptoms? Or perhaps someone you know was having trouble breathing and was suspected to have a lung clot? Any of these scenarios could be the reason for having angiography done.
At The Net Yogi, we want to share with you about angiography and about angiogram, the benefits, and the risks, what happens before, during and after having an angiogram
So let’s start,

What is an Angiography?

To determine the condition of the arteries which supply blood to the heart, Angiography is done. It is an x-ray movie of the coronary arteries. Angiography (and angioplasty) are performed in a catheterisation laboratory. In angiography, a catheter is inserted in the artery from the leg, near the groin, or from the arm and advanced upwards until it reaches the coronary artery of the heart. Then, a liquid dye is injected into the artery, which outlines the arteries on the x-ray, so that any blockages in the coronary arteries are picked up. Till today angiography is a gold standard for determining blockages in the coronary arteries.

Angiography is the test where dyes that can be seen by x-rays are injected into blood vessels (either arteries or veins) and examined using x-rays. The resulting pictures are called angiograms.

Though the Angiography is interventional, it is only a diagnostic tool. It is said that there is some element of risk involved in Angiography, in the sense that, at the time of doing an angiography, a person may get a heart attack, get an allergic reaction to the dye, suffer damage to the artery, or may have a kidney failure. However, such risks are very low.

Sometimes an angiography is done within 24 to 48 hours of a heart attack, followed by angioplasty or a bypass surgery so as to prevent damage or further damage to the heart.

Benefits associated with an angiogram

  1. Used for diagnosis to show very detailed pictures of the arteries inside your brain, heart and kidneys.
  2. Can be used to show blockages in your arteries.

Risks associated with an angiogram

Your doctor knows the risks of having an angiogram. Your doctor will consider the risks before recommending you to have an angiogram. Possible risks are:

  1. Often not recommended in early pregnancy Small amount of radiation. The amount of radiation you are exposed to depends on the number of pictures taken and the part of the body being examined.
  2. Extremely small chance you could develop cancer in the long term from the radiation
    If you are taking some medications. These include anticoagulants (blood thinning medications) and diabetic medication.
  3. If you have a known kidney disease
    An allergic reaction from the dye. You may have nausea, sneezing, vomiting, itching, hives and dizziness. More serious reactions can occur, but are very rare.
  4. Infection, bleeding or injury at the site of an injection.
  5. Blood clot in the wall of the blood vessel or a weakness of the blood vessel wall that may need treatment.
  6. If you are at all concerned regarding the risks, talk to your doctor before the examination.

Preparation for an angiogram

You will usually be admitted to hospital as a day patient for this procedure.

  1. Bring your referral letter or request form and all X-rays taken in the last 2 years with you.
  2. Leave the X-rays with the radiology staff as the doctor may need to look at them. The radiology staff will tell you when these are ready to be picked up.
  3. Wear comfortable, loose clothing Leave all jewellery and valuables at home You may be asked not to eat for four hours before the angiogram.
  4. You will be allowed to drink clear fluids such as black tea, coffee, clear soup or water during the four hours before the Angiogram. It is important for your kidneys to have fluids.

Recovery and follow-up when you get home

  • Relax and drink plenty of water. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
    Because you’ve had an anesthetic, you shouldn’t drive, operate machinery, or make any important decisions immediately.
  • Remove the bandage after 24 hours. If there’s minor oozing, apply a fresh bandage for another 12 hours.
  • For two days, don’t have sex or perform any heavy exercise.
  • Don’t take a bath, use a hot tub, or use a pool for at least three days. You may shower.
  • Don’t apply lotion near the puncture site for three days.
  • You’ll need to see your heart doctor a week after the test.

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