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An angiography is a procedure that involves injecting a liquid dye into a catheter that has been placed inside an artery. An X-ray is then performed to check the blood vessels for any blockages that may be limiting blood flow inside the body. The X-ray will show if the blood vessels are narrower than normal or enlarged and if they show any evidence of disease. An angiography can be performed to examine not just the heart, but the blood vessels in the kidneys and brain as well.
A patient undergoing an angiography is given a local anesthetic where the catheter and dye is to be inserted. Once the area is numb, a wire is inserted using a needle. The needle then guides the wire to the correct spot within the artery.
After the wire is in the correct place, the needle is removed and a vascular sheath is inserted to cover the wire. The catheter is then placed along the wire. Once the catheter has been inserted, the wire is removed and a liquid dye is inserted inside the catheter. This procedure is watched on a screen and examined through a series of X-rays.
A surgeon may choose to use an angiography before deciding which surgical procedure is best for his patient. An angiography can detect atherosclerotic disease, which causes strokes due to limited blood flow to the brain. Angiographies can be used to detect aneurysms in the brain as well as renal artery disease in the kidneys. They also assist in the preparation for surgeries in the leg where blood vessels can be found showing signs of disease.
There are many benefits of having an angiography. These benefits include providing the physician with an accurately detailed picture of the blood vessels. Angiographies provide the ability to assess specific blood vessels in specific areas of the body. Unlike other medical procedures, the problem that is found can be diagnosed and treated at the same time.
Some of the risks may involve the patient experiencing an allergic reaction to the dye. Allergic reactions may cause the patient's blood pressure to drop. There could also be a skin reaction where the dye has been inserted or the patient could experience difficulty in breathing.
There is a slight risk involved that the angiography itself could cause a blood clot to form where the tip of the catheter is located and block an artery. If the patient suffers from a kidney disease and undergoes an angiography, having the dye excreted through the urine could cause the disease to worsen. While it is very rare, the risk of internal bleeding is also present.
As with any medical procedure, there are benefits and risks to having an angiography done. It is essential for the patient to understand these beforehand. The benefits and risks should be discussed in detail with the physician to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks and if the angiography is right for the patient.