Angiography is an x-ray technique that injects dye into arteries. The test lets doctors measure the blood flow through whatever artery is being imaged. Angiography is a very safe test. The dye used for the test is harmless, and by drinking lots of liquids after the test, you can help rid your body of the dye. Some people may have an allergic reaction to the dye, but this is rare. Tell your doctor before the test is you are allergic to iodine, or shellfish. Some examples of angiography are renal arteriograms, abdominal angiograms, and lower extremity angiography with runoffs.
Doctors perform angiography by introducing a long, thin tube (called a catheter) into an artery in the leg or arm. Once the catheter is in place, a dye is injected through the catheter and into the artery. The dye helps doctors see how well the movement of the dye travels through the artery they are imaging. These are recorded and views like a moving x-ray image.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your test. If you have diabetes, you should talk to your doctor about your food and insulin intake, because not eating can affect your blood sugar levels.
Talk to your doctor about any medicines that you are taking, because he or she may want you to stop taking them before the test. Also, it may be helpful if you bring your medicines with you to the procedure, so that the doctors know exactly what you are taking and how much. You will most likely have blood tests before the procedure to make sure your blood counts, kidney function and electrolytes are acceptable.
Once you are in the laboratory, you will see television monitors, heart monitors, and blood pressure machines. You will lie on an examination table, which is usually near an x-ray camera. Small metal disks called electrodes will be placed on your chest. These electrodes have wires called leads, which hook up to an electrocardiogram machine. This machine will monitor your heart rhythm during the test.
To prevent infection, you will be shaved and cleansed around the area of your legs and arms where the catheter will be inserted. A needle with a tube connected to it will be put in your arm. This is called an intravenous line or IV. A mild sedative will be given to relax you throughout the test.
Next, you will be given an anesthetic medicine with a needle to numb the area around where the catheter will be inserted. You may feel mild discomfort. Then, a small incision will be made in the skin. Once doctors feel the artery into which the catheter will go, they will use a special needle to access it. Doctors then put the catheter into the artery. You should not feel pain during this part of the test.
The catheter is gently threaded through the artery to the area the MD needs to image. They will position the catheter at the opening of each of the arteries and inject the dye into them. The dye will let your doctor see whether you have blockages in the artery or its branches. This information is recorded and after doctors have the information they need, they will remove the catheter and IV. Firm pressure will be applied to the site where the catheter was inserted to stop any bleeding and you will have a bandage put on.
After the procedure, staff will move you to another room where you will rest for a few hours. You may feel a little sleepy until the sedative has worn off. Nurses will watch to see that your heart rate and blood pressure remain steady and that there are no complications. After this time of rest, you will be able to go home.