Atherosclerosis Diagnosis: How Do Angiograms Work?

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
March 4, 2022

Atherosclerosis is a specific type of arteriosclerosis, in which fats, cholesterol, and other substances, called plaque, build up and around your artery walls. Plaque can cause your arteries to narrow, which blocks blood flow. When the plaque bursts, this causes blood clots, which can be deadly.

If you received an arteriosclerosis diagnosis, you may have been told you’ll need an angiogram to determine your risk factor and to better treat blockages. But what are they, and how do they work?

What Is an Angiogram?

An angiogram, also called an arteriogram, is a series of x-rays taken of the arteries after a contrast dye is injected to the blood vessels, making them more visible to your vascular surgeon. After the dye is injected, your doctor can examine the blood vessels and see any abnormalities, such as unusual narrowing or blockages.

How Is an Angiogram Performed?

An angiogram is an outpatient procedure and is performed with local anesthetics and medication (to help relax you). The procedure typically starts lying on your back, with an IV for hydration and medication. A needle will be inserted into your femoral, or groin, artery. Catheters and wires will then be threaded through the arterial system to either a specific area or all over the body.

A contrast agent (iodine dye) is then injected, and x-rays are taken, then shown to your vascular surgeon. Your surgeon will observe the dye and identify abnormalities in the arteries. They will then be able to open up narrowing blockages with a balloon, laser, or orbital bur. They can also place a metal cage, called a stent, to ensure it stays open.

The entire procedure takes approximately one to two hours, with a three-hour recovery and observation period.
What Happens After an Angiogram Is Performed?
After the angiogram is finished, the catheter will be removed and the incision will be closed with manual pressure, a clamp, or a small plug. You’ll be taken to a recovery area for observation and monitoring, lying down flat to prevent the incision from reopening. This will last for three hours.

Since this is an outpatient procedure, you will be able to go home the same day. Once home, make sure you drink lots of fluids to help flush the dye from your body. Try to eat something as well. You will be able to return to your regular diet after your procedure. Your healthcare team will be able to inform you as to when you can return to your other regular activities, such as bathing, working, and taking medications. Avoid heavy lifting and other strenuous activities for several days.

How Do I Prepare for an Angiogram?

Before your angiogram, you’re going to need to make sure you get your bloodwork and EKG done—before the deadline provided to you. You’ll need to provide your surgical scheduler with a list of current medications you’re taking and any allergies you may have, especially dye, iodine, shellfish, tape, and latex. Don’t eat or drink anything past midnight the night before your procedure, and make sure you wear loose, comfortable clothing. Leave all valuables at home. Ensure you have a responsible adult to take you and bring you home, and avoid doing anything that requires balance, judgment, or coordination.

Schedule Your Angiogram Now

If you are interested in learning more about the angiogram procedure or want to schedule one for yourself or a loved one, South Valley Vascular is here to help! We have 5 office locations, conveniently located in Visalia, Hanford, Porterville, Tulare, and Fresno. Our expert care is never too far from home.