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What is an Angiogram?

Angiography is the use of x-rays to examine blood vessels, especially in order to identify any blocked or misshapen vessels that may cause problems. The test itself is called an angiogram. Some of the disorders that angiograms can be used to diagnose include:
  • Blockages and narrowing
  • Weakened walls and bulging, called an aneurysm
  • Malformations and misshapen blood vessels
  • Kidney artery conditions
  • Aorta artery conditions
  • Vein problems, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and blood clots or embolisms

During an angiogram, the doctor inserts a very thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel through an opening in the groin or arm. The catheter is threaded through the body to the site of the suspected problem, where a small amount of dye is injected into the bloodstream and x-rays are taken. The dye makes the surrounding blood vessels visible via x-ray.

If necessary, certain procedures can be performed after an angiogram while the catheter is in place. Angioplasty is the use of a catheter to widen narrowed or blocked arteries. Stents are like tiny coiled springs that hold blood vessels open, and they can be placed during a catheterization. Damaged heart valves can also be repaired or replaced.

A typical angiogram takes about an hour to perform, but it may be longer if the catheterization is used to perform procedures on the blood vessels. It may be uncomfortable at times but is usually not painful. Afterwards, you may be monitored for up to six hours to make sure any bleeding from the insertion site has stopped, and you will be given fluids to help flush the dye from your body. For a day or two after an angiogram it is important to drink plenty of fluids and keep strenuous activity to a minimum.