A coronary angiogram identifies blood flow issues with the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.
A coronary angiogram uses X-ray technology to view the blood vessels of the heart to determine if there is blood flow restriction or blockage. The most common type of cardiac catheterization procedure, coronary angiograms can both diagnose and treat heart conditions.
When Is a Coronary Angiogram Recommended?
Your doctor may order a coronary angiogram if you:
- Are experiencing symptoms of coronary artery disease, such as chest pain, an abnormal heart rate or shortness of breath
- Have received unusual results on a non-invasive heart stress test
- Have a heart defect that you were born with (congenital heart disease)
- Are experiencing pain in your jaw, neck, chest or arm that cannot be explained
- Have a heart valve condition that requires surgery
- Are experiencing new or increasing chest pain
- Have a chest injury
- Have a blood vessel problem
How Is a Coronary Angiogram Performed?
Coronary angiograms take place in a catheterization (cath) lab and patients lie on their back on an X-ray table. In some cases, a mild sedative can be given to relax patients. Here’s what the procedure entails:
- A catheter (a long, thin, flexible tube) will be inserted into an incision in the groin and carefully threaded to the coronary arteries.
- A contrast material will be injected into the catheter to flow into the blood vessel.
- This dye shows up very clearly on X-ray images, allowing the medical team to closely examine how it moves through the blood vessel and identify any blockages or constricted areas.
If a problem is detected, a procedure such as a balloon angioplasty or stent placement can be completed at the same time by inserting another catheter into the blood vessel.
What to Expect
A coronary angiogram is a minimally invasive procedure, so recovery is typically quick and easy. Most patients are able to go home the same day and can resume normal activities like bathing, showering and taking medications soon afterward.
It’s rare to experience complications from a coronary angiogram, although there are a handful of risks to be aware of, such as:
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Allergic reaction to the contrast dye
- Excessive bleeding
- Blood vessel damage
Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute offers advanced diagnostics for cardiovascular conditions. Our institute comprises a wide range of specialists who can diagnose and treat even the most complex diseases.