At Providence, we believe that healthy living starts with a healthy heart. When non-invasive heart screening methods, such as electrocardiograms, yield inconclusive results the next best step in treatment is a coronary angiography, or an angiogram for short.
An angiogram is a type of X-ray exam that uses a special contrast dye to create clear images of arteries, blood vessels and chambers of the heart. During the scan, your doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) into your blood vessels through your leg to inject the dye.
An angiogram is useful in diagnosing and treating coronary artery disease and various heart conditions, as well evaluating causes and symptoms of heart valve problems like blood clots.
The procedure itself is minimally invasive and can be performed under mild sedation or general anesthesia.
In order to maintain comfort, an IV is placed in your arm to provide medications and sedatives before and during the procedure. Electrodes and blood pressure cuffs will also be placed on your body to monitor your heart. You will be asked to comfortably lie on an operating table that is outfitted with a fluoroscopy (X-ray) machine.
During your procedure, your doctor makes a small incision in the leg. A guide wire is then inserted and led to your heart through the femoral artery. The wire helps carefully guide the catheter to the heart. Once there, the tip of the catheter releases the contrast dye.
The dye helps produce detailed and clear images of blood vessels on the X-ray monitor and allows your doctor to carefully analyze any blockages and abnormalities within them.
The exam takes anywhere between one and two hours. More often than not, patients who undergo cardiac catheterization procedures leave their hospital the same day.
Cardiac catheterization procedures, like angiograms, are a hybrid type of imaging test, using both X-ray imaging and minimally invasive surgical techniques. Therefore, there are some possible complications and risks.
For an angiogram, these include infection at the incision site, bleeding, potential allergic reactions to the dye and minimal radiation exposure. Though rare, there are also risks of stroke, heart attack and artery damage.