Angiography is carried out in a hospital X-ray or radiology department. It normally takes between 30 minutes and two hours, and you can usually go home the same day.
Preparing for an angiogram
Before having an angiogram, you may be asked to attend a hospital appointment to check that you can have the test.
This may involve:
- being asked about your medical history, including if you have any allergies
- being asked about any medication you're taking – you'll be told if you need to stop taking it before the test
- having a number of tests to check your general health, including a physical examination and blood tests
- a discussion about the angiogram, including what it involves, what the risks are, what you need to do beforehand and whether you'd like to have sedative medication on the day to help you relax
If you choose to have a sedative, you'll be asked not to eat for a few hours before the test.
You'll also need to arrange for someone to pick you up from the hospital, as you won't be able to drive yourself home.
The angiography procedure
You'll usually be awake for an angiogram, although general anaesthetic (where you're asleep) may be used for young children.
For the test:
- you'll be asked to change into a hospital gown and lie down on a special table
- a small cut is made in the skin over one of your arteries, usually near your groin or wrist – local anaesthetic is used to numb the area so it doesn't hurt
- a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into the artery and is carefully guided to the area being examined – you may feel some pushing and pulling when this is done, but it shouldn't be painful
- a special dye (contrast agent) is injected through the catheter – you may feel warm, flushed and as though you need to pee for a few seconds after this is done
- a series of X-rays are taken as the dye flows through your blood vessels
Sometimes treatment may be carried at the same time, such as inserting a balloon or a small tube to open up a narrowed artery. This is known as angioplasty.
Once the procedure is finished, the catheter is removed and pressure is placed on the cut to stop any bleeding. Stitches aren't needed.
After an angiogram
After the test, you'll be taken to a recovery ward where you'll be asked to lie still for a few hours to prevent bleeding from the cut.
You'll usually be able to go home the same day, although sometimes you may need to stay in hospital overnight.
It may be possible to tell you the results of the test before you go home, but often the X-rays need to be studied in detail and the results are not available for a few weeks.
While recovering at home:
- rest for the remainder of the day – it's a good idea for someone to stay with you for at least 24 hours in case you have any problems
- eat and drink as soon as you feel ready to – the contrast dye leaves your body in your urine, so drinking plenty of water can help flush it out faster
- you can usually return to most normal activities the next day, although you may need to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise for a few days
You will probably have some bruising and soreness for at least a few days.
Page last reviewed: 13 January 2017
Next review due: 13 January 2020