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Explaining the Angiography Technique

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 26 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Angiography Angiogram Diagnosis

Angiography is an extremely useful technique designed to allow physicians to achieve a detailed examination of the blood vessels and heart. Using principles of X-ray, the complex maze of the circulatory anatomy can be studied using minimally invasive methods that produce accurate results.

Why do I Need an Angiogram?

An angiogram may be recommended for a variety of reasons. It is essentially used to examine the arteries and veins and detect any problems or abnormalities. Angiography is useful in the detection and diagnosis of coronary artery disease, aneurysms, blockages and narrowing of the vessels, to examine to blood supply to and from organs and prior to surgeries as it allows the specialist to see the condition of organs and vessels and helps plan appropriate surgical planning.

What To Expect

Angiography is often carried out as a day case and a full recovery is expected very soon after the procedure.Using a peripheral artery, such as those of the legs (often the femoral artery located in the groin area is selected), a small width catheter is introduced into the circulatory system. The area will be numbed first using a small amount of local anaesthetic, a tiny puncture wound is made and the catheter inserted often using an even thinner guide wire to minimise the discomfort and size of incision needed.

Using X-ray and a dye visible on the x-ray to follow it’s path, the catheter is inserted to the required area, travelling along the vessel. When it has reached it’s target area more dye is injected, which can be seen on the x-ray screen until the doctor has seen the areas of the anatomy that are required. The vessels often look like a road map or tree roots and the blood flow around the body can be seen very clearly.

The procedure may carry some discomfort but should not be particularly painful. Some patients have reported warmth around the site as the dye is being injected.The use of music or relaxation techniques can be useful in reducing the anxiety experienced by the patient.

Once the doctor is satisfied that adequate images have been examined, the catheter is withdrawn and pressure applied to the wound using a soft dressing. The wound will need pressure applied for at least ten minutes as the artery has been punctured and is likely to bleed. A dressing will be applied and occasionally fabric sutures or skin glue will be used if needed.

Are Angiograms Dangerous?

Angiography is considered to be a relatively safe procedure and risks are minimal and will be discussed thoroughly before the process has begun.The most serious risk is damage to the vessels themselves, such as puncture, from either the guide wire or the catheter. If damage does occur surgery may be required to correct the problem.Some patients may find they have an allergy to the equipment used, though this is extremely rare.

The risk from the x-rays is minimal and patients can usually request protection using a lead apron if they desire.Those with liver, kidney or other organ disease will need to discuss this with their doctor.

Angiography is a very useful way of examining the circulatory system, detecting problems and assisting the doctor in making an accurate diagnosis.

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