An angiogram is an investigation to provide high quality images of the arteries in the body.
The patient is given some light sedation to reduce any anxiety. The procedure itself does not hurt, but it is normal to feel anxious before procedures, so the sedation is usually welcomed by patients.
Local anaesthetic is injected at the top of the leg. The skin at the top of the leg is punctured with a needle and a thin plastic tube (called a catheter) is then passed into the artery. This tube is only 1mm in diameter and does not hurt. You cannot feel it within the body. The tube can be passed into any artery in the body, using our DSA imaging equipment to direct it.
If the angiogram is to see the carotid or brain arteries – the catheter is passed toward the neck. If the angiogram is to see the renal arteries or aorta, the catheter is directed toward the abdomen. If the angiogram is to visualize the leg arteries, then the catheter is directed toward the legs.
When the catheter is in position, a liquid contrast agent is injected out of the catheter tip. This is carried through the arteries by the flow of blood. X-rays are taken as the contrast passes down the arteries and provide sharp images of the arteries. These images are called angiograms and show the shape of the arteries. They can show narrowings in the arteries which prevent adequate blood supply from going to that organ or to that leg. They can also show enlargements or “aneurysms” in the arteries.
We perform angiograms on every artery in the body except for the coronary (heart) arteries. Angiograms of the coronary arteries are performed by cardiologists. We perform angiograms on the legs, the gut, the kidneys, the arms and the brain.
After the angiogram, the catheter is withdrawn from the top of the leg and the puncture is compressed by hand for 5 minutes. The patient is then kept lying down for 90 minutes to prevent a bruise at the top of the leg. At the completion of 90 minutes the patient can go home. Normal life after an angiogram is encouraged but it is better to avoid exercise for 48 hours.
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