Angiogram of the Head and Neck
An angiogram of the head and neck is an
X-ray test that uses a special dye and camera (fluoroscopy) to take pictures of the blood flow in the blood vessels of the head and neck . An angiogram of the neck (carotid
angiogram) can be used to look at the large arteries in the neck that lead to
the brain. An angiogram of the head (cerebral angiogram) can be used to look at
the veins or the four arteries (four-vessel study) carrying blood to the
During an angiogram, a thin, soft 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 head and
neck area. Then an iodine dye (contrast material) is injected into the
vessel to make the area show clearly on the X-ray pictures. The angiogram
pictures can be made into regular X-ray films or stored as digital pictures in
An angiogram can find a bulge in a blood vessel (aneurysm). It can also show narrowing or a blockage in
a blood vessel that slows or stops blood flow. An abnormal pattern of blood
vessels (arteriovenous [AV] malformation) or abnormal vessels near a tumor can
magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) or
computed tomography angiogram (CTA) may be an option
instead of a standard angiogram. Each of these tests is less invasive than an
angiogram. Some MRA tests and all CTA tests require an injection of dye. A CTA
also involves radiation exposure.
Why It Is Done
An angiogram of the head or neck is
- Look for blockage or narrowing of the arteries
in the neck that carry blood to the brain. The test may help your doctor decide if a procedure is needed to open a narrowed or blocked artery to increase blood flow. Blood flow to the brain that is
slowed or stopped increases the chance of having a
stroke or a
transient ischemic attack (TIA).
- Study symptoms that might mean
problems with the blood flow to the brain. Symptoms may include severe
headaches, memory loss, slurred speech, dizziness, blurred or double vision,
weakness or numbness, or loss of coordination or balance.
- Detect an aneurysm in the brain or in a blood vessel leading to
the brain. The test may help your doctor decide if a procedure is needed to repair the aneurysm.
- Check the pattern of blood
flow to a tumor. This can show if the tumor has spread and can help guide
How To Prepare
Before an angiogram, tell your doctor
- Are or might be pregnant.
breast-feeding. Use formula (throw out your breast milk) for 1 to 2 days after
the angiogram until the dye has passed from your body. This generally takes 24
- Are allergic to iodine dye used in the
- Have ever had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) from any substance, such as the venom
from a bee sting or from eating shellfish.
- Are allergic to any
- Have any bleeding problems or are taking blood-thinning
- Have a history of kidney problems or
diabetes, especially if you take metformin (such as
Glucophage) to control your diabetes. The dye used during an angiogram can
cause kidney damage in people who have poor kidney function.