Angiography - How it is performed 

How angiography is performed 

Depending on the complexity of the investigation, angiography takes between 20 and 90 minutes. You will usually be allowed to go home on the same day, although in some cases you may need to stay in hospital overnight.

Angiography is usually a planned procedure. However, it may occasionally be done on an emergency basis – for example, in the case of a heart attack.

In cases where an angiography is planned, you're likely to have an initial appointment to discuss a number of issues. As part of these discussions, you may be asked:

  • about your medical history
  • whether you have any allergies
  • whether you're currently taking any medication

You may also have a number of standard tests shortly before having an angiography. These may include:

  • blood pressure tests
  • blood tests to check how well organs such as your kidneys or liver are working
  • pulse check to see how quickly your heart is beating

Before having an angiogram, some people prefer to take a sedative to help them relax. In this case, you will be asked not to eat for several hours before having the procedure. Your care team will be able to give you a precise recommendation.

The procedure

Most angiography procedures are carried out using local anaesthetic to numb the area of skin where the catheter is going to be inserted. Sedation may be offered if needed.

General anaesthetic is sometimes used when young children need to have the procedure. This is because it may be upsetting for them or they may find it too difficult to stay still while it is being carried out.

Coronary angiography is carried out by a cardiologist (a doctor who specialises in heart disease). Peripheral vascular angiography is performed by an interventional radiologist (a doctor who specialises in using imaging studies). A nurse may also be present to assist with the procedure.

An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted into a vein in your arm. It can be used to deliver sedatives or any other medication as required. Electrodes (small, metallic discs) may be placed on your chest to measure your heartbeat. A blood pressure monitor may also be attached to your arm.

A small plastic tube called a sheath will be placed into one of your arteries. A catheter (a long, thin flexible tube) is inserted through the sheath and on to the arteries being examined. Depending on the area of your body being examined, the catheter may be inserted into an artery in either your wrist, groin or leg.

The cardiologist or radiologist will use X-rays to help guide the catheter to the area being examined. Contrast dye will then be injected through the catheter and a series of X-rays will be taken. This will allow a map of the arteries to be created.

The procedure isn't painful, but you may feel a slight sensation of warmth or a mild burning sensation as the contrast dye moves through your blood vessels. It can take between 30 minutes and two hours to complete the procedure, depending on the complexity of your condition and what the radiologist finds.

In some cases, other procedures can be carried out during angiography, such as inserting a balloon or a small tube called a stent through the catheter to open up a narrowed artery. This is known as angioplasty.

Once the procedure has been completed, the catheter will be removed and the incision will be closed using manual pressure, a plug or a clamp.

Afterwards

Following angiography, you will usually be taken to a recovery ward. You will be asked to lie still for a few hours to prevent bleeding at the site of the incision.

Most people are able to leave hospital on the same day after having angiography. However, you may occasionally need to stay in overnight for observation. You'll be able to eat and drink as soon as you feel ready to. It may take eight to 12 hours before you're well enough to resume normal activities.

Depending on what the radiologist finds during your angiography, they may be able to discuss your results with you shortly after the procedure. Alternatively, they may compile a report and send it to your GP.

Page last reviewed: 11/02/2013

Next review due: 11/02/2015

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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

PTSDpatient said on 17 July 2014

It would be helpful to outline that this procedure can be extremely painful if you are unlucky and leave ongoing pain in the wrist, arm and hand. I need to use a crutch to get around and have had to restrict all my activity because my crutch arm is too painful to use since I had this procedure.

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Marel Rye said on 02 July 2011

Hi,

Can anyone please help?

I've a cerebral angiogram scheduled for Monday but have yet to receive a letter from the hospital, so I'm unsure if I should be doing anything before my appointment like fast/other.

Many thanks

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yasasii said on 17 May 2011

Angiogram and angioplasty can be painfull and can lead to disability.
Ask the doctor to use the left wrist if possible.

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