An angiogram is an
X-ray test that uses a special dye and camera (fluoroscopy) to take pictures of the blood flow in an
artery (such as the
aorta) or a vein (such as the vena cava). An angiogram
can be used to look at the arteries or veins in the head, arms, legs, chest,
back, or belly.
Common angiograms can look at the arteries near
the heart (coronary angiogram), lungs (pulmonary angiogram), brain (cerebral
angiogram), head and neck (carotid angiogram), legs or arms (peripheral), and
the aorta (aortogram).
During an angiogram, a thin tube called a
catheter is placed into a blood vessel in the groin (femoral artery or vein) or
just above the elbow (brachial artery or vein). The catheter is guided to the area to be
studied. Then an iodine dye (contrast material) is injected into the
vessel to make the area show clearly on the X-ray pictures. This method is
known as conventional or catheter angiogram. The angiogram pictures can be made
into regular X-ray films or stored as digital pictures in a computer.
An angiogram can find a bulge in a blood vessel (aneurysm). It
can also show narrowing or a blockage in a blood vessel that affects blood
flow. An angiogram can show if
coronary artery disease is present and how bad it
magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) or
computed tomography angiogram (CTA) may be an option
instead of an angiogram. Each of these tests is less invasive than a standard
angiogram. Some MRA tests and all CTA tests require an injection of dye. A CTA
also involves radiation exposure.
- Heart Disease: Should I Have an Angiogram?
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Why It Is Done
angiogram is done to:
- Detect problems with blood vessels that affect
blood flow. Examples of such problems include a tear in a blood vessel (which
can cause blockage or internal bleeding),
aneurysms (which are weaknesses in the blood vessel
wall), and narrowed areas.
- Look for changes in the blood vessels of
injured or damaged organs.
- Show the pattern of blood flow to a
tumor. This can not only help show how much the tumor has spread but also guide
- Show the condition, number, and
location of renal arteries before a kidney transplant.
- Look for a source of bleeding, such as an
- Prepare for surgery on diseased
blood vessels of the legs (peripheral arterial disease) in people
who have severe leg pain when walking.
- Check how bad
atherosclerosis is in the
In some cases, a method called interventional radiology may
be used during an angiogram to treat diseases. For example, a catheter can be
used to open a blocked blood vessel, deliver medicine to a tumor, or stop
intestinal bleeding caused by
diverticular hemorrhage. To stop intestinal bleeding,
the catheter is moved into the small artery where the bleeding is occurring,
and medicine that narrows the artery or causes the blood to clot is injected
through the catheter.