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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 camera.gif. 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 brain.

During an angiogram, a thin, soft tube called a catheter is placed camera.gif 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 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 slows or stops blood flow. An abnormal pattern of blood vessels (arteriovenous [AV] malformation) or abnormal vessels near a tumor can be seen.

A 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 done to:

  • 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 camera.gif 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 treatment.

How To Prepare

Before an angiogram, tell your doctor if you:

  • Are or might be pregnant.
  • Are 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 hours.
  • Are allergic to iodine dye used in the test.
  • Have ever had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) from any substance, such as the venom from a bee sting or from eating shellfish.
  • Have asthma.
  • Are allergic to any medicines.
  • Have any bleeding problems or are taking blood-thinning medicines.
  • 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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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