Angiography is the X-ray imaging of blood vessels using contrast agents injected into the bloodstream through a thin plastic tube (catheter) placed directly in the blood vessel. Angiography uses a liquid contrast agent to provide information about blood vessel abnormalities, such as narrowing, blockage, inflammation, abnormal dilation, and bleeding. Contrast agents are injected into an artery or vein to make the blood vessels visible on X-rays.
Angiography is also used to guide procedures that treat blood vessel abnormalities. If the artery is narrowed, a tiny balloon can be inflated (and occasionally, a piece of metal tubing called a ‘stent’ can be inserted) to widen the artery and restore normal blood flow. This procedure is called angioplasty. Angiography is also used to guide procedures where abnormal blood vessels need to be blocked off if they are bleeding (a process called ‘embolisation’) or as part of other medical investigations or surgical treatments.
Some general preparations might be required before undergoing angiography. Whether preparations are required or not depends on which part of your body is to be examined. Our staff will advise you on this when you make the booking.
The procedure will usually take less than an hour to carry out. You might be required to stay in a recovery room for up to 4 hours after the procedure.
Before the procedure, you will be asked to change into a surgical gown and might be given a mild sedative to help you to relax. Occasionally, angiography procedures require general anaesthetic so that you are asleep during the procedure.
Local anaesthetic is given to numb the area (usually at the top of the right leg in the groin area) where a soft catheter (thin plastic tube) will be inserted into the blood vessel. The groin area is shaved before entering the angiography suite in certain circumstances.
This injection will sting initially but quickly becomes numb. Once the area is numb and the thin catheter inserted, a contrast medium is injected to make the blood vessels visible on a screen. When contrast medium is injected, you might experience a hot flush (lasting a few seconds) in the area being examined.
Bleeding (haematoma) occurs in less than five per cent of angiograms. This is usually seen as a raised bruise at the site, usually on the right groin where the catheter is inserted. In most cases, this is not serious and will disappear after a few weeks. One in 100 people having angiography will require observation in hospital overnight, and less than one in 500–1000 will require another procedure, surgery or blood transfusion to correct the bleeding.
Iodine-containing contrast medium is used. This has a minimal risk of causing an allergic reaction, such as itchiness, rash and/or breathing difficulty. It is very important to tell our staff if you have had an allergic reaction to contrast medium in the past or any other allergies.
After the treatment, you will usually be taken to a recovery room for monitoring.
To prevent bleeding (haematoma) from the site where the catheter was inserted, either:
You will be allowed to eat and drink after the procedure.
Your doctor will receive a written report on your test as soon as practicable.
It is very important that you discuss the results with the doctor who referred you to explain what the results mean for you.
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