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An angiogram is a test that allows physicians to see how blood flows through a specific blood vessel (an artery or a vein). The procedure uses a dye that makes blood vessels visible on X-rays. An angiogram can be used to look at the blood vessels in the head, chest, back, abdomen, arms or legs. An angiogram can reveal the presence of any blockage or damage in an artery or vein, an aneurysm, as well as coronary artery disease and its extent.
During an angiogram, a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is placed into a blood vessel and guided to the area to be examined. Then a dye is injected into blood stream. This dye causes the blood vessel to be visible on an X-ray. Therefore, the X-rays must be taken while the dye is flowing through the blood vessel being studied.
An angiogram can be done as an outpatient procedure; however, after the procedure, patients stay in a recovery room for several hours before they can go home. A radiologist and another doctor, in addition to other support staff, perform the test.
An angiogram may last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. Patients are awake during the test and are often given a mild sedative to help them relax. Most patients will have an intravenous line in a vein in their arm to administer any medication or fluids that are needed. Small pads will be placed in several areas to help monitor the patient’s heart rate.
Patients do not experience pain when the catheter is in the blood vessel. They may, however, feel pressure as the catheter is inserted and moved around. Patients generally feel some warmth for a few seconds when the dye is injected.
The results of an angiogram are typically available the same day as the procedure. Since an angiogram is a test to see how blood flows through a specific blood vessel, it can reveal the presence of any blockage or damage in an artery or vein, an aneurysm, and coronary artery disease and its extent.
Normal angiogram: the dye flows evenly through the blood vessel(s) examined. This means that those specific blood vessels are normal; there is no blockage, narrowing, bulging or other problems.
Abnormal angiogram: here the dye does not flow evenly through the blood vessel(s); a bulge or narrowing is seen in the vessel; the dye leaks from the vessel; or the vessel is in an abnormal location and/or there is an abnormal pattern of vessels. Abnormal results may be due to a variety of things including: a clot, a deposit of fat or minerals, an aneurysm, a hole in the vessel, or the presence of a tumor.