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Angiography (Arterial & Venous)

Angiography is a minimally invasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Angiography uses one of three imaging technologies and, in some cases, a contrast material to produce pictures of major blood vessels throughout the body. Angiography is performed using: x-rays with catheters, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Your doctor may recommend an Angiography to:

  • Identify disease and aneurysms in the aorta, both in the chest and abdomen or in other major blood vessels.
  • Detect atherosclerosis, a disease in the carotid artery of the neck, which may limit blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.
  • Detect disease in the arteries to the kidneys or visualize blood flow to help prepare for a kidney transplant.
  • Guide interventional radiologists and surgeons making repairs to diseased blood vessels, such as implanting stents or evaluating a stent after implantation.
  • Evaluate arteries feeding a tumor prior to surgery or other procedures such as chemoembolization or selective internal radiation therapy

You may be asked to remove some or all of your clothes and to wear a gown during the exam. You may also be asked to remove jewelry, dentures, eye glasses and any metal objects or clothing that might interfere with the x-ray images. If you are going to be given a sedative during the procedure, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything for four to eight hours before your exam. Be sure that you have clear instructions from your health care facility. If you are sedated, you should not drive for 24 hours after your exam and you should arrange for someone to drive you home. Because an observation period is necessary following the exam, you may be admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay if you live more than an hour away.

The equipment typically used for this examination consists of a radiographic table, an x-ray tube and a television-like monitor that is located in the examining room or in a nearby room. When used for viewing images in real time (called fluoroscopy), the image intensifier (which converts x-rays into a video image) is suspended over a table on which the patient lies. When used for taking still pictures, the image is captured either electronically or on film. The catheter used in angiography is a long plastic tube about as thick as a strand of spaghetti.

Catheter angiography works much the same as a regular x-ray exam. X-rays are a form of radiation like light or radio waves. X-rays pass through most objects, including the body. Once it is carefully aimed at the part of the body being examined, an x-ray machine produces a small burst of radiation that passes through the body, recording an image on photographic film or a special digital image recording plate. Different parts of the body absorb the x-rays in varying degrees. Dense bone absorbs much of the radiation while soft tissue, such as muscle, fat and organs, allow more of the x-rays to pass through them. As a result, bones appear white on the x-ray, soft tissue shows up in shades of gray and air appears black. When a contrast material is introduced to the bloodstream during the procedure, it clearly defines the blood vessels being examined by making them appear bright white. A catheter angiogram may be performed in less than an hour; however, it may last several hours.

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