Angiography at Rex Hospital
Angiography is a minimally invasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Angiography uses one of three imaging technologies and, in some cases, a contrast material to produce pictures of major blood vessels throughout the body.
Angiography is performed using:
- x-rays with catheters
- computed tomography (CT)
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
In catheter angiography, a thin plastic tube, called a catheter, is inserted into an artery through a small incision in the skin. Once the catheter is guided to the area being examined, a contrast material is injected through the tube and images are captured using a small dose of ionizing radiation (x-rays).
This examination is usually done on an outpatient basis.
A nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a small vein in your hand or arm. A small amount of blood will be drawn before starting the procedure to make sure that your kidneys are working and that your blood will clot normally. A small dose of sedative may be given through the IV line to lessen your anxiety during the procedure.
The area of the groin or arm where the catheter will be inserted is shaved, cleaned, and numbed with local anesthetic. The radiologist will make a small incision (usually a few millimeters) in the skin where the catheter can be inserted into an artery. The catheter is then guided through the arteries to the area to be examined. After the contrast material is injected through the catheter and reaches the blood vessels being studied, several sets of x-rays are taken. Then the catheter is removed and the incision site is closed by placing pressure on the area for approximately 10 to 20 minutes (or by using a special closure device).
When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.
Your intravenous line will be removed.
A catheter angiogram may be performed in less than an hour; however, it may last several hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Patients with impaired kidney function, especially those who also have diabetes, are not good candidates for this procedure.
Patients who have previously had allergic reactions to x-ray contrast materials are at risk of having a reaction to contrast materials that contain iodine. If angiography is essential, a variety of methods is used to decrease risk of allergy:
- You may be given one or more doses of a steroid medication ahead of time.
- Contrast material without iodine may be used instead of standard x-ray contrast.
- Catheter angiography should be done very cautiously—if at all—in patients who have a tendency to bleed.
You will not feel the catheter in your artery, but when the contrast material is injected, you may have a feeling of warmth or a slight burning sensation. The most difficult part of the procedure may be lying flat for several hours. During this time, you should inform the technologist if you notice any bleeding, swelling or pain at the site where the catheter entered the skin.
You may resume your normal diet immediately after the exam. You will be able to resume all other normal activities 8 to 12 hours after the exam.
Andrew B. Weber, MD
Vascular & Interventional Radiologist
Expertise in vascular/interventional radiology and MR angiography
Nothing to eat or drink after midnight. If you are on blood pressure medications, you may take your AM dose with a small sip of water, otherwise hold off on taking your other medications. Discontinue taking aspirin, coumadin, or plavix 5 days prior to procedure. Make sure a driver is available post procedure to take you home.
You should inform your physician of any medications you are taking and if you have any allergies, especially to barium or iodinated contrast materials. Also inform your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.
You may be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and to wear a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images.