What to Expect In an Angiogram Procedure

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
July 18, 2022

When it comes to your vascular health, there are several different tests and procedures your doctor can take to determine the health of your heart and what, if anything, needs to be addressed. 

Of those tests, angiograms are considered the gold standard in finding traces of heart disease, coronary atherosclerosis, vascular stenosis, and aneurysms. When it comes to getting treated for a whole range of vascular diseases, most journeys start with the angiogram.

What is an Angiogram?

Angiograms are a series of x-rays taken to detect the presence of blockages in the heart and surrounding areas using an injected contract agent. 

In a traditional angiogram, a long, narrow catheter will be inserted into an artery in the arm, upper thigh, or groin area. Then, a doctor will inject a contrast dye, most often iodine, into the catheter. The contrast dye works to make the blood vessels in the body more visible on an x-ray.

After the dye is injected the technician will take x-rays of the blood vessels to look for abnormalities. Not all angiograms require x-ray machines, they might instead be taken with a CT or MRI scans. 

Coronary angiograms might be ordered if the doctor has concerns about blocked or narrowed arteries, new or unusual chest pains, stroke, heart attack, or heart failure, or other blood vessel problems.

What to Expect during Coronary Angiograms?

Let’s run through what the day of your angiogram might look like:

Before the Procedure

  • In most cases, you will need to avoid food and drink starting the night before the procedure. You will also need to arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure. 
  • You should come to your appointment with a prepared list of current medications and supplements, known allergies, current driver’s license or ID, and your current medical insurance information. 
  • A nurse will lead you to a private room where you’ll be changed into a medical gown
  • The nurse will insert a small intravenous (IV) line into your hand, as well as check your vitals, including weight, body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure 
  • You won’t be unconscious during the procedure, but you might be given a mild sedative to help you relax

During the Procedure

  • The doctor will disinfect and numb the area being examined before making a small incision in which to insert the catheter.
  • The doctor will guide the catheter to the blood vessel they want to examine, then inject the dye through the catheter. The patient may feel a slight burning sensation during injection, but pain should not be worse than a minor feeling
  • The doctor will then take pictures of the blood vessel

After the Procedure

  • After the x-rays are taken, the catheter will be gently removed and the doctor will apply steady pressure on the area for about 15 minutes
  • You will be taken to your room by the nurse and await the doctor to discuss results
  • You will need to be driven home by a trusted, responsible adult, and it’s recommended you be monitored all day and night afterwards

For a more detailed, beat-by-beat description of an angiogram, check out South Valley Vascular’s page here.

The talented team of providers at South Valley Vascular are dedicated to providing effective, long-lasting, and educated vascular treatment to the communities of the Southern San Joaquin Valley. For information on their providers, what treatments they specialize in, and how to get in contact with South Valley Vascular, visit https://www.southvalleyvascular.com/