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How the test is performed
How to prepare for the test
How the test will feel
What the risks are
Why the test is performed


Angiography is a procedure in which a contrast material that can be seen using X-ray equipment is injected into one of the arteries or veins, allowing your health care provider to see the vessels. A computerised imaging system may be used to further enhance the pictures.

Alternative Names

Arteriogram (for Arteries), Venogram (for Veins). Digital Subtraction Angiography (DSA) is a computerised angiography system commonly used for most angiography.

How the test is performed

An angiogram can be used to examine almost any artery or vein, including those of the head, kidneys, heart, or lungs. It is sometimes used as part of a procedure to repair the blood vessels called balloon angioplasty.

The study is carried out in a laboratory by a trained cardiologist or radiologist and technicians or nurses. First the doctor will need insert an intravenous (IV) line into one of the blood vessels in your arm, chest, neck, or groin.

For arteriograms, a catheter is then inserted through the IV and into your blood vessels using an X-ray machine that produces "live" pictures. Once the catheter is placed into the blood vessel of interest, contrast material is injected and pictures are taken. Sometimes it takes a long time for the doctors to get the catheter into just the right spot. It can be compared to threading a needle for sewing.

For venograms, often a catheter is not required. Often a small needle is inserted into a vein in the arm or leg, and contrast material introduced directly through it.

How to prepare for the test

Food and fluid are restricted 6 to 8 hours before the test. The procedure takes place in the hospital and you will be asked to wear a hospital gown. Sometimes, admission the night before the test is required. Otherwise, you will be admitted as an outpatient or an inpatient the morning of the procedure.

Your health care provider should explain the procedure and its risks. A witnessed, signed consent for the procedure is required.

Tell your doctor if you are allergic to seafood, if you have had a bad reaction to contrast material in the past, if you are taking Viagra, or if you might be pregnant.

How the test will feel

You will generally feel some discomfort at the site where the IV is placed. Most blood vessels do not have nerve endings, so you probably won't feel the catheter inside of your body.

Depending upon the type of arteriogram being performed, you may experience a variety of symptoms when the doctor injects the contrast material. For example, with a arteriogram of the head (cerebral arteriogram), you may feel a brief flushing feeling in your head.

If the IV is placed in your groin, you will usually be asked to lie flat on your back for a few hours after the test to avoid bleeding. This may cause some mild back discomfort.

What the risks are

The risks for this procedure depend on the type of arteriogram performed. You should ask your doctor about the risks before you agree to have the test performed.

In general, there is a risk of bleeding, infection, and pain at the IV site.
There is always a very small risk that the soft plastic catheters could actually damage the blood vessels.
Blood clots could form on the catheters and later block blood vessels elsewhere in the body.
The contrast material could damage the kidneys (particularly in patients with diabetes).
Other risks may be present as well.

Why the test is performed

The reasons for this test depend on the type of angiogram that will be performed.

In general, arteriograms give the best pictures of the body's blood vessels. Arteriograms are used to make specific diagnoses and to help determine what the best treatment is in a particular case. Often, the treatment itself can be performed using the same type of catheters used in the arteriogram, instead of requiring a more extensive surgery in an additional procedure.

Text courtesy of Yahoo! Health Encyclopedia.

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