Coronary Angiography

Also Known as Cardiac angiography, Angiography – heart, and Angiogram – coronary; the coronary angiography is a procedure that uses a special dye (also referred to as contrast) and X-Rays to see the flow of blood through your heart.

How the procedure is performed?

Coronary angiography is usually done along with cardiac catheterization and is a day care procedure. Before the procedure commences, you may be administered a mild sedative to help you relax.

An area of your body, usually the arm or groin, is cleaned and numbed with a local anesthetic. The cardiologist passes a thin hollow tube, called a catheter, through an artery and carefully moves it up into the heart. X-ray images help the cardiologist position the catheter.

Once the catheter is in place, dye (contrast) is injected into the catheter. X-Ray images are taken to see how the dye moves through the artery. It is this dye that helps to highlight any blockages in blood flowing through the various arteries of the heart. The procedure may last about 10 to 15 minutes.

How to prepare for the procedure?

You should not eat or drink anything for 4-6 hours before the procedure starts (NBM – Nil by Mouth). You can check in to the hospital on the morning of the procedure.

You will wear a hospital gown. You must sign a consent form before the procedure. Your health care provider will explain the procedure and its risks.

Tell your doctor if you are allergic to seafood, if you have had an adverse reaction to contrast/ dye in the past, if you are taking any sildenafil medication, or if you are pregnant.

How the procedure will feel?

You are awake during the procedure. You may feel some pressure at the site where the catheter is inserted. Occasionally, a flushing sensation is felt after the dye is injected.

After the procedure, the catheter is removed. You might feel a firm pressure at the insertion site, used to prevent bleeding. 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 procedure to avoid bleeding. This may cause some mild back discomfort.

Why the procedure is performed?

Coronary angiography is done to find a blockage in the coronary arteries, which may lead to heart attack. It may be done if you have unstable angina, atypical chest pain, aortic stenosis, or unexplained heart failure.

Normal Results

There is a normal supply of blood to the heart and no blockages.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal result may mean you have a blocked artery. The procedure can show how many coronary arteries are blocked, location of the blockage, and the severity of the blockages.

Risks

Cardiac catheterization carries a slightly increased risk when compared with other heart procedures. However, the procedure is very safe when performed by an experienced team. The overall risk is 0.01%.

Considerations associated with any type of catheterization include the following:

In general, there is a risk of bleeding, infection, and pain at the IV site.

  • There is always a very small risk that the soft plastic catheters could actually damage the blood vessels.
  • Blood clots could form on the catheters and later block blood vessels elsewhere in the body.
  • The contrast material may damage the kidneys (particularly in patients with diabetes).

Considerations

If a blockage is found, your health care provider may perform a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI or Angioplasty – popular name) to open the blockage. This can be done during the same procedure.

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