An angiography is an examination of arterial blood vessels to probe for blockages in blood circulation. The test uses X-rays to depict “route maps” of blood vessels and arteries in the heart while providing detailed information about heart function, blood pressure, and oxygen levels in the blood as it flows through the heart. During this procedure, in which you will likely be sedated, a physician will insert a needle into an artery in your groin and inject you with a special dye called a ‘contrast medium’ through a thin tube, known as a catheter, which accentuates any potential problems or abnormalities in the blood vessels.
The procedure is generally safe, painless, and is usually successfully completed inside of two hours. Side effects of angiography are usually limited to bruising or soreness for a few subsequent weeks, however, the procedure can incur some several severe complications such as an adverse reaction to the dye, dizziness or shortness of breath, stroke, or kidney damage due to internal bleeding. In most cases, even the serious side effects associated with an angiograph are both temporary and treatable. Angiography is most commonly employed when the patient has angina to identify narrow of the arteries (atherosclerosis) that can result in a stroke or heart attack. Angiography is also used to plan invasive procedures for widening blocked or narrow blood vessels, to detect peripheral arterial disease, and to diagnose blockages in blood supply to the kidneys or lungs, which can lead to a pulmonary embolism.