A peripheral angiogram is a test that checks for blockages in the arteries that supply blood to your legs and feet or your arms and hands. These arteries are called peripheral arteries because they move blood away from the heart and toward your extremities.
The test is typically done if your doctor suspects you have peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Why Is a Peripheral Angiogram Done?
Your doctor might order a peripheral angiogram if you have any symptoms of blockages in your peripheral arteries. It usually affects your legs, but can happen in other areas, depending on the disease.
Some peripheral angiography symptoms may include:
- Pain in your legs or arms
- Shiny skin on your legs or feet
- Hair loss on your legs
- Cold skin
- Gangrene, or dead tissue because of lack of blood flow
- Sores that won’t heal
- Numbness or weakness in your limbs
- Pain at rest
- Reddish-blue color in your extremities
- Thick, opaque toenails
- Trouble moving around
- Weak pulse in your leg or foot
How Is a Peripheral Angiogram Performed?
A peripheral angiography is done while you lay on an X-ray table. The doctor will put some numbing medication on your groin or your arm and will make a small cut. They’ll insert a small rubber sheath into your blood vessel and then insert a thin tube called a catheter.
Next, they’ll inject contrast dye into the catheter and take some X-ray scans. Then they’ll remove the catheter and rubber sheath and put a bandage on your cut. They’ll put some pressure on the area and keep you lying down for up to 8 hours. A nurse will watch for any complications before sending you home. You’ll need someone to drive you.
The procedure takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
Sometimes your doctor might do another minor procedure during the same appointment as your angiogram. They might check your arteries and then decide to treat your arteries right away.
Treatment might be a peripheral angioplasty, where a balloon is inflated to move plaque and widen your artery. Or they might place a stent, which is a permanent mesh coil that’s placed against your artery walls to hold it open.
If your doctor does other procedures like placing a stent, it can take longer.
None of these procedures is considered a major surgery.
What Are the Risks of a Peripheral Angiogram?
Risks of a peripheral angiogram include:
- Allergic reaction to contrast dye
- Infection where the catheter is inserted
- Kidney problems from the dye
You might have a higher chance of complications if you have kidney disease or you’re allergic to the contrast. Your doctor might be able to use a different dye for the procedure.
In most cases, the risk for complications from an angiogram is low.