Angiography is a procedure that can diagnose vascular conditions and blocked blood vessels. Angiography employs X-rays during cardiac catheterization to create images.
During angiography, a very small tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel in your upper thigh or arm. The tube delivers a special fluid (called a contrast medium) while an X-ray machine rapidly takes a series of pictures (angiograms). This gives your doctor a detailed look at how the contrast flows through your blood vessels. If necessary, treatment can be performed during your angiography.
Your physician will give you instructions to follow before undergoing angiography. Common instructions include:
- Don't eat or drink anything after midnight the day before.
- Ask your doctor about whether or not to take your usual morning medications.
- If you have diabetes, ask your doctor if you should take insulin or other oral medications before your angiography.
- Do not wear contact lenses, eyeglasses, jewelry, hairpins, etc.
When your angiography is over, the catheter is removed and the incision is closed with pressure and a dressing (bandage). You'll need to lie flat for several hours to prevent bleeding and promote healing. If you received anticoagulants during the procedure, removing the catheter too soon can trigger bleeding.
You may be able to go home the same day, or you may have to remain in the hospital for a day or longer. Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the contrast from your system. When you're feeling up to it, have something to eat.
Ask your doctor when you should resume taking your medications, shower, return to work and resume other normal activities. Avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting for several days.
Call your doctor's office if:
- You notice bleeding, new bruising or swelling at the catheter site
- You develop increasing pain or discomfort at the catheter site
- You have signs of infection, such as redness, drainage or fever
- There's a change in temperature or color of the leg or arm that was used for the procedure
- You feel faint or weak
- You develop chest pain or shortness of breath
If the catheter site is actively bleeding or begins swelling, apply pressure to the site and contact emergency medical services.
Angiography is relatively painless because local anesthesia is used. The procedure takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
Your puncture site is likely to remain tender for a few days after your procedure, and it may be slightly bruised or develop a small bump. Follow your doctor's instructions for taking a nonaspirin, over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), for a day or two if needed. Avoid aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), as these may increase the risk of bleeding.
Typically your cardiologist or your primary care physician will order angiography for you. Insurance carriers often cover angiography; however all insurance plans are unique and patients are encouraged to check with their carrier regarding rules of coverage.
Consult with your physician or health care provider to learn more.