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General Medical Questions
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Question : My wife has to have an angiogram and is nervous about it. Can you tell us what will happen in this procedure?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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May 11, 2012
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A:

An angiogram is a dye test to look at blood vessels that feed oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs. Most angiograms are done to look for:

  • Artery blockages
  • An aneurysm (a dilated artery)
  • A tear in an artery (called a dissection)

An angiogram can look at any artery in the body. But most often your doctor orders an angiogram to look at the arteries that provide nutrients to the:

  • Heart
  • Brain
  • Kidney, or
  • Legs

Angiograms can provide the most detailed pictures of blood vessels. Today, MRI and special CT scans come close. But angiograms are still considered the best.

She needs to inform the doctor performing the test if she has:

  • Had a bad reaction to intravenous dye (contrast)
  • Any allergies, including those to foods
  • Kidney disease (People with chronic kidney disease have an increased risk of kidney damage from the dye.)

If your wife is nervous, then she may wish to ask her doctor for a mild sedative to help her sleep the night before the test. During the test, she will be awake and can ask for medicine to help her relax.

The specialist performing the angiogram will find the arterial pulse in the groin or the arm. He or she will inject the skin with a numbing medicine (local anesthetic). Then a needle will be inserted into the artery.

A wire will be threaded though the needle and pushed forward under X-ray guidance. Once the wire is in place, a soft catheter is threaded over the guide wire. Then dye is injected into the catheter and the X-ray pictures are taken.

Once the specialist is satisfied that there are enough pictures, the catheter is removed and a pressure bandage is placed over the puncture site. Your wife will need to lie flat on her back for a few hours to be certain the bleeding stops. And she will need someone to drive her home.

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