Catheter Angiography

Catheter angiography is a minimally invasive diagnostic procedure to evaluate and treat conditions within the blood vessels. It is performed by inserting a catheter into a targeted artery or vein and delivering contrast dye to provide clear imaging results with the use of a fluoroscope. Angiogram pictures can be viewed as X-ray films or stored as digital images in a computer.

Reasons for a Catheter Angiography

Catheter angiography may be used to examine blood flow in large vessels such as the aorta, vena cava, carotid or femoral arteries or to examine other blood vessels in the head, limbs or torso. This procedure provides the most accurate visualization of the targeted blood vessels to detect circulatory problems in their earliest stages or to investigate precise locations of abnormalities prior to surgery.

A catheter angiogram may be performed to:

  • Detect atherosclerosis or peripheral artery disease
  • Provide image guidance for stent implantation
  • Identify sources of internal bleeding
  • Detect injury to the arteries such as blockages or aneurysms
  • Determine the extent of artery damage before surgery
  • Evaluate size and location of a tumor
  • Show location and condition of renal arteries before a kidney transplant

The Catheter Angiography Procedure

During the catheter angiogram procedure, an IV line is inserted into the arm, into which a small dose of sedative may be administered to relieve anxiety and any pain associated with this procedure. The catheter is then inserted under local anesthesia into the groin or arm, depending on the location of the area to be examined. The doctor guides the catheter to the targeted area under imaging guidance and then injects a contrast dye into the area before a set of X-rays is taken. The procedure takes between one and three hours. The catheter is then gently removed. No stitches are needed to close the incision.

Risks of a Catheter Angiography

While this procedure is considered safe for most patients, there are certain risks involved in any surgical procedure. These risks, which usually are evident within two hours of the procedure, may include:

  • Excessive exposure to radiation
  • Allergic reaction to dye
  • Skin damage
  • Damage to a blood vessel
  • Blood clots
  • Breathing difficulties

If a serious complication occurs during the angiogram, it is possible that the test may have to be interrupted, occasionally requiring urgent treatment, possible including emergency surgery. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult with their doctor before undergoing this diagnostic test.

Additional Resources