An angiogram is a test in which fluid is injected into the bloodstream to make blood vessels visible on a scan. Angiograms help doctors detect abnormal blood vessels, clots and other problems.
Coronary angiograms look at the heart’s own blood vessels. Angiograms can also be used to look at the blood vessels in the brain, the kidneys or other parts of the body. They are usually done in hospital.
Before the test
Some people have to fast (have no food or drink) for four to six hours beforehand. Others have to drink a lot of fluids beforehand. If you’re not sure, check with your doctor.
You will need to arrange someone to help you get home, especially if you are going home the same day.
Your doctor should discuss the procedure and any potential risks beforehand. This is a good time to ask questions or discuss any concerns. You should tell your doctor or nurse:
- about any medications you take
- about any allergies you have
- if you have kidney disease, diabetes, or other health conditions.
What happens during an angiogram?
You may be given a local anaesthetic in your arm or your groin. You may also be given a sedative.
A tube known as a catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel in your arm or groin, and is fed in to reach the area being examined.
Dye is injected through the catheter. This dye is known as contrast. X-rays are taken, and the dye shows the shape of the blood vessels. The dye later passes out of your body in the urine.
When the dye goes in, you might feel temporary warmth or a hot flush. Some people feel nauseous or have chest discomfort, but this doesn’t generally last long. Let your doctor know if you are experiencing these or other symptoms.
After an angiogram, a doctor or nurse will probably put pressure on the wound to reduce the risk of bleeding. You will be asked to lie flat for a few hours.
Angiogram risks and side effects
There is a small risk that you will be allergic to the contrast. There is also a risk of bleeding, either from where the catheter was put in, or from the area being examined.
Last reviewed: May 2015