What is an angiogram and angioplasty?
An angiogram is a procedure to look for any problems with your arteries using dye and x-rays. Sometimes an angioplasty is performed at the same time to widen or unblock an artery. It involves inflating a small balloon inside the artery. A stent (metal mesh tube) is usually used to hold the artery open.
What are the benefits of an angiogram and angioplasty?
An angiogram will give a detailed picture of your arteries.
The procedure should help you to walk further and with less pain. If you have ulcers or gangrene it should help these to heal.
Are there any alternatives to an angiogram and angioplasty?
There are other tests that can be performed to give a picture of your arteries such as a Doppler ultrasound, MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) or CTA (CT angiogram).
Another alternative to an angioplasty is surgery to bypass the blocked or narrowed artery.
What will happen if I decide not to have the operation or the operation is delayed?
Your doctor may not be able to treat your problem and improve your symptoms. If you have ulcers or gangrene, it is likely that these will not heal properly, and you may need an amputation.
If you develop significant pain while you are waiting for your operation, contact emergency services.
What does the procedure involve?
An angiogram and angioplasty usually takes 1 to 2 hours.
Your doctor will insert the catheter in an artery in your arm, groin or foot using a needle and guidewire (thin flexible wire).
Your doctor will inject local anaesthetic into the area over the artery. This stings for a moment but will make the area numb, allowing them to insert the needle into your artery without causing too much discomfort.
When your doctor is satisfied that the needle is in the right position, they will replace it with a catheter.
If an angioplasty is being done to help improve your symptoms, they will thread a fine tube, with a balloon at the end, through the catheter into your groin. When the balloon is in the narrowed or blocked area of the artery, your doctor will inflate the balloon to stretch the artery.
They will deflate the balloon and remove it. Your doctor may also insert a stent inside the artery to keep it open.
When the procedure is complete, your doctor will remove the catheter from your groin.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
- bleeding causing a collection of blood
- false aneurysm
- damage to the artery
- loss of a limb
- allergic reaction to the equipment, materials, medication or dye
- kidney damage
- radiation exposure
- failed angioplasty
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day.
It is important not to do strenuous exercise for 1 to 2 days.
Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
An angiogram and angioplasty is usually a safe and effective way of finding out if you have any problems with your arteries and improving your symptoms.IMPORTANT INFORMATION
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Last reviewed: September 2023