Coronary angiography is a procedure that uses a special dye (contrast material) and x-rays to see how blood flows through the arteries in your heart.
Coronary angiography is most often done with cardiac catheterization.
Before the test starts, you will be given medicine to help you relax.
An area of your body where the catheter will be inserted is cleaned and numbed with a local numbing medicine (anesthetic). The spot is usually the arm or groin.
The doctor passes the catheter through an artery and carefully guides it into the heart. X-ray images help the doctor position the catheter.
When the catheter is in place, dye (contrast material) is injected into the catheter. X-ray images are taken to see how the dye moves through the artery. The dye helps highlight any blockages in blood flow.
The procedure may last 30 to 60 minutes.
The catheter will be removed after the test. Pressure will be applied to stop bleeding at the site the catheter was inserted.
You should not eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the test starts. You may need to stay in the hospital the night before the test. Otherwise, you will check in to the hospital the morning of the test.
You will wear a hospital gown. You must sign a consent form before the test. Your health care provider will explain the procedure and its risks.
Tell your doctor if you are allergic to seafood, if you have had a bad reaction to contrast material in the past, if you are taking Viagra, or if you might be pregnant.
In most cases, you will be awake during the test. You may feel some pressure at the site where the catheter is placed.
You may feel a flushing or warm sensation after the dye is injected.
If the catheter is placed in your groin, you will usually be asked to lie flat on your back for a few hours after the test to avoid bleeding. This may cause some mild back discomfort.
Coronary angiography may be done if you have:
There is a normal supply of blood to the heart and no blockages.
An abnormal result may mean you have a blocked artery. The test can show how many coronary arteries are blocked, where they are blocked, and the severity of the blockages.
Cardiac catheterization carries a slightly increased risk when compared to other heart tests. The test is very safe when performed by an experienced team.
The risk of complications is very small. Risks of the procedure include the following:
Small risks from catheterization include:
If a blockage is found, your health care provider may perform a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to open the blockage. This may be done during the same procedure or at later time, depending on your medical needs.
You may need coronary artery bypass surgery if you have many blockages or blockages in certain arteries. Your doctor may also suggest this surgery if you also have other heart or medical problems.
Cardiac angiography; Angiography - heart; Angiogram - coronary
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Popma JJ. Coronary arteriography. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL,Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 21.
Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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