What is an angiogram?
An angiogram uses X-rays and a special contrast dye to take pictures of the arteries in your brain, heart, and kidneys.
The dye is injected into a small tube or catheter into an artery in your groin or (sometimes) your arm. The small tube is inserted after an injection of local anaesthetic around the artery. Sometimes an intravenous sedative is given. After the dye is injected, pictures are taken using an X-ray machine.
Benefits of angiograms
- Used for diagnosis to show very detailed pictures of the arteries inside your brain, heart and kidneys.
- Can be used to show blockages in your arteries.
Risks of angiograms
Your doctor knows the risks of having an angiogram. Your doctor will consider the risks before recommending you to have an angiogram.
Angiograms are not often recommended in early pregnancy or for people who have a known kidney disease.
There are also risks associated with certain medications. These include anticoagulants (blood thinning medications) and diabetic medication.
Possible risks include:
- Small amount of radiation. The amount of radiation you are exposed to depends on the number of pictures taken and the part of the body being examined.
- Extremely small chance you could develop cancer in the long term from the radiation.
- An allergic reaction from the dye. You may have nausea, sneezing, vomiting, itching, hives and dizziness. More serious reactions can occur, but are very rare.
- Infection, bleeding or injury at the site of an injection.
- Blood clot in the wall of the blood vessel or a weakness of the blood vessel wall that may need treatment.
If you have any allergies, tell the staff or radiology doctor.
If you are at all concerned regarding the risks, talk to your doctor before the examination.
You will usually be admitted to hospital as a day patient for this procedure.
- Bring your referral letter or request form and all X-rays taken in the last 2 years with you.
- Leave the X-rays with the radiology staff as the doctor may need to look at them. The radiology staff will tell you when these are ready to be picked up.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing.
- Leave all jewellery and valuables at home.
- You may be asked not to eat for 4 hours before the angiogram.
- You will be allowed to drink clear fluids such as black tea, coffee, clear soup or water during the 4 hours before the angiogram. It is important for your kidneys to have fluids.
Tell your doctor before the scan
- If you are or may be pregnant.
- If you have any allergies and medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or thyroid problems.
- Any medications you are taking.
Just before the angiogram
- You may be given a gown to wear.
- You may be asked to remove any metal objects.
- You will need to have a needle put into the back of your hand if you are having a sedative during the procedure.
What happens during an angiogram
You will be asked to lie flat on your back on the x-ray bed. Staff will place sterile drapes over you.
Staff will put a small tube or catheter into an artery in your arm or groin and inject the dye into it.
Possible side effects of the dye:
- You may feel a slight coolness and a flushing for a few seconds.
- Part of your body may feel warm – if this bothers you, tell the staff.
Once you are ready, the X-ray staff will go behind a screen or into the next room to start the X-ray machine. They will ask you to be still, and may ask you to take a deep breath and hold your breath during the X-rays.
When your X-ray is finished you will be asked to wait while staff check the pictures, as you may need another X-ray.
The test including getting you ready usually takes between 30 minutes and an hour.
You have the right to refuse an examination and may do so if you wish. You may be asked to complete a consent form.
When will I get the results?
The amount of time it takes for you to get your results will differ depending on where you get your scans done. The radiology doctor will look at the pictures and write a report. The pictures may be on films or on a CD.
Ask whether you should wait to take the pictures and report with you, or whether they will be sent to your doctor.
Your doctor will need to discuss the report with you. You will need to make an appointment to do this.
After an angiogram
After the procedure staff will check the area where the catheter was inserted (groin or arm), and your pulse and blood pressure for 4 to 6 hours. You may need to stay in hospital overnight and will usually need to rest for 24 hours before returning to normal activities.
- Staff will need to take out the needle if it is still in your groin or arm.
- Staff will give you any special instructions.
- The dye will pass out of your body in your urine. You will not notice it as it is colourless.
- Drink plenty of fluid to help get rid of the dye.
If you had a sedative
- You must not drive a car or take public transport for 24 hours afterwards.
- You must have someone with you for 24 hours afterwards.
- You must not operate machinery for the rest of the day.
Costs of an angiogram
For an Australian patient in a public hospital in Western Australia:
- public patient – no cost to you unless advised otherwise
- private patient – costs can be claimed through Medicare and your health insurance provider
For a patient in a private hospital or private imaging site in Western Australia – ask your doctor or the staff where you are having your test done.
Where to get help
- See your doctor
- Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.