An angiogram is a type of medical procedure that allows doctors to see the blood flow in a specific artery or vein. The most common use for an angiogram is to look at blood vessels in the heart, lungs, or brain, although this procedure can be used for other blood vessels as well. A small catheter is inserted into a blood vessel, and a specialized dye is injected into the blood vessel. An x-ray is then performed so that the doctor can clearly see the flow of blood through the vessel. The procedure can detect several problems in the blood vessel, including bulges or blockages, so that proper treatment can begin.
The patient is generally asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours prior to the procedure. Some medications, such as aspirin, may need to be discontinued prior to the angiogram as well. This procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis, although an overnight stay in the hospital is preferred by some doctors just in case complications arise.
Before the angiogram begins, a small catheter known as an IV is inserted into a vein so that any necessary medications or fluids can be delivered directly into the bloodstream. A local anesthetic is then used to numb the area where the procedure will be performed. A very small puncture is then made into the skin so that the doctor can gain access to the blood vessel that is being tested.
A small catheter is inserted into the blood vessel, and a special type of dye containing iodine is injected into the vessel. An x-ray machine is then used to take several pictures of the vessel so that the doctor can evaluate the blood flow in the vessel. After the procedure has been completed, the catheter is removed, and firm pressure is placed on the test site for several minutes until the bleeding has stopped.
After the angiogram, the patient will need to avoid physical activity for a couple of days to prevent the site from bleeding. In order to prevent dehydration and to help flush the dye from the body, plenty of fluids should be consumed for a few days following the procedure. The medical staff will provide the patient with detailed instructions on activity restrictions and any medications that may need to be used based on the results of the angiogram. Any questions or concerns about the procedure or the recovery period should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.