AngiogramAn angiogram is a medical image that can help a physician detect and investigate narrowed, blocked or damaged blood vessels.
Angiography is a diagnostic technique that utilizes medical imaging with contrast. The resulting images, which are known as angiograms, allow a physician to visualize the interior of blood vessels and detect signs of abnormal blood flow in veins, arteries and heart chambers.
A physician may order an angiogram to investigate, diagnose or plan treatment for:
- An aneurysm – An enlarged or bulging blood vessel
- Angina – Chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles
- Atherosclerosis – A buildup of cholesterol plaque in the walls of the arteries
- Aortic disease – A disorder of the main artery that carries blood from the heart
- Carotid artery disease – A narrowing of the arteries in the neck
- Coronary artery disease – A narrowing of the heart’s major blood vessels
- Mesenteric artery ischemia – A narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the intestines
- Peripheral vascular disease – A narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the legs
- A pulmonary embolism – A blockage in the arteries that supply blood to the lungs
- Renal artery stenosis – A narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys
- A stroke – A blockage in the arteries that supply blood to the brain
- A transient ischemic attack (TIA) – A brief, stroke-like episode known as a “mini stroke” that may be a warning sign of a future stroke
Types of Angiography and Procedure Details
There are two main types of angiography: catheter angiography and noninvasive angiography. During a catheter angiography, a physician will insert a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into an artery, such as the femoral artery in the groin. After carefully guiding the catheter to the area of the body being examined, the physician will deliver a contrast medium to the bloodstream via the catheter, then capture a series of X-ray images. The dye will help illuminate the blood vessels in the resulting angiograms.
In some cases, angiograms can be produced with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which do not involve the insertion of a catheter.
What to Expect
After a catheter angiography, the patient will lie on his or her back for a few hours while remaining as still as possible. Mild tenderness, swelling, bruising and/or a pea-sized lump may develop at the puncture site. Acetaminophen can be taken to improve comfort; it is also important to drink plenty of water to help flush the dye out of the body.
Some people are sensitive to the dye used to produce angiograms. Those individuals may temporarily experience a metallic taste in their mouth or a sensation of warmth throughout their body. There is also a small risk of the catheter loosening a piece of plaque, causing it to break away from the artery wall and possibly create an arterial blockage.
Angiograms can help a physician detect blood vessel abnormalities that increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute offers a full spectrum of imaging tests for diagnosing heart and vascular disease, including catheter angiography, computed tomography angiography and magnetic resonance angiography.