What Is an Angiogram?
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Angiogram- Types, Indications, and Risks

Published on Oct 17, 2022   -  4 min read


An angiogram is a test performed to visualize the arteries of the heart, brain, kidney, and other vital organs.


An angiogram is an invasive approach that gives rise to several images of arteries. The arteries can be of any organ. An angiogram is generally done to view the arteries of the heart and the brain, lungs, and kidneys. During an angiogram, the healthcare provider utilizes a contrast dye and X-rays of the organ in order to distinguish the flow of blood via the organ's arteries. This helps in finding the location as well as the presence of any kind of blockages.

An angiogram is also referred to as an arteriogram and is related to the word angiography. Both the terms refer to a specific procedure of observing the arteries in various organs. Aorta is the main artery of the body and is the widest as well as the most substantial artery of the heart. The blood is pumped out of the heart and into the body through the aorta. Aortic angiography or aortic arteriogram is one of the commonly conducted tests in a patient with a cardiovascular disorder.

What Are the Types of Angiograms?

Angiograms or arteriograms can be used to investigate several organs of the body. The word before angiogram or arteriogram generally refers to the type of angiogram supposed to be conducted.

A few of the most common types of arteriogram or angiography are mentioned below.

What Are the Risks of an Angiogram?

Any procedure has some amount of risk involved. Nevertheless, if performed with great expertise, an angiogram has no specific complications or risks.

Mentioned below are some of the possible risks associated with arteriogram or angiography.

  • Allergic reaction to the dye used during an angiogram.

  • Kidney damage.

  • Formation of blood clots.

  • Damage to the blood vessels.

  • Low blood pressure.

  • Stroke.

  • Pain at the site of an angiogram

  • Bleeding.

  • Infection at the place of catheter insertion.

When Is an Angiogram Indicated?

An angiogram is not a routine procedure that occurs on every cardiologist or healthcare professional visit. After taking a detailed history of the present clinical manifestations of the patient as well as understanding the signs and symptoms, an angiogram is suggested. Medical and drug history are also vital tools to determine the right candidate for an angiogram.

Additionally, an angiogram is known to be a slightly invasive procedure. Therefore, healthcare providers do not directly jump to angiograms. Instead, an electrocardiogram, treadmill test, an ultrasound of the heart are conducted before the angiogram. If these tests prove to be of no use, the patient is further suggested for an angiogram. Angiogram aids the healthcare provider in determining the extent of damage and the source.

Mentioned below are a few factors that may lead an individual to undergo an angiogram.

  • Blocked blood vessels.

  • Heavily damaged blood vessels.

  • Blood vessels with abnormal anatomy.

  • Chest pain.

  • Constant chest discomfort.

  • Episodes of a heart attack.

  • Coronary artery disease.

  • Angina pectoris.

  • Pain in the jaw and neck.

  • Stiffness of the arms and shoulder.

  • Unstable angina.

  • Congenital heart disorder.

  • Abnormal results of stress test.

  • Abnormal results of electrocardiography and ultrasound of the heart.

  • Trauma.

  • Valve disorders.

  • Injury to the chest.

  • Difficulty in breathing during strenuous activity.

  • Heavy breathing while climbing the stairs.

  • Inability to lift heavyweights.

  • Decreased ability to perform physical activities.

What Happens During an Angiogram?

Patients are asked to avoid eating and drinking for 12 hours before the procedure. Breakfast should include only clear liquids. The process is done under local or general anesthesia as per the patient's choice and the doctor's recommendation. Moderate sedation is given, and the following steps occur with the entire procedure getting over approximately within 3 hours.

  • A catheter is carefully inserted into the groin or any other large artery of the body until its tip reaches the part of the blood vessel needed to be investigated.

  • A tiny quantity of contrast dye is inserted via the catheter into the blood vessel.

  • Simultaneously x-rays are taken.

  • The contrast dye can highlight the blood vessel and the blockage, which is viewed on the x-ray.

What Happens After an Angiogram?

The x-ray is then studied by a team of professionals who diagnose the cardiovascular condition. The patient is then monitored for 6 hours. A radiologist evaluates the patient before discharge. It is always advisable to stay overnight post angiogram. This is because any reaction to the dye can be corrected. The result is discussed between the healthcare provider and the patient. The healthcare provider decides the best fitting treatment plan or cardiac procedure based on the results. Coronary angioplasty or stenting is a way to clear blocked arteries. There are high chances that the healthcare provider completed the process of stenting during an angiogram if in case the need arises.


An angiogram is a test that reveals the complete picture of a blood vessel through x-rays and contrast dye. The heart, brain, kidneys, and lungs are some of the many vital organs that undergo angiograms. An angiogram is performed after other cardiovascular diagnostic tools have failed to accurately diagnose or understand the underlying cardiovascular disease. In addition, an angiogram aids in determining the source of the extent of the damage. Knowing this information can help the healthcare provider shape the best treatment modality.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is an Angiogram Anything to Be Scared Of?

No, an angiogram is not a dangerous procedure. It is considered safe and is quite similar to inserting an IV (intravenous) line. Angiogram will require the placement of a catheter, a small and thin tube, into the artery to check the blockage in the heart.


Does an Angiogram Hurt?

No, an angiogram does not hurt. There might be slight discomfort while administering the anesthesia, but no pain will be experienced once anesthesia is achieved. The discomfort would be similar to that of a blood test.


Can an Angiogram Treat Blockage In the Heart?

No, an angiogram is a test performed to find out the blockage in the heart. It can only show the blockage. For treating blockage during an angiogram, angioplasty is performed where stents are inserted into the clogged arteries to unclog the blockage. Angioplasty can be done on the same day after an angiogram is performed.


Is Angiogram a Major Operation?

No, major surgeries are required to be done under general anesthesia. The patient remains awake during the angiogram but is unaware of the process as angiography is performed under local anesthetic. No major cuts or stitches are required after the angiogram procedure.


How Long Should One Rest Following an Angiography?

After the angiogram, patients are monitored for six hours and advised to stay overnight in the hospital. Post-angiogram, the patient might feel pain for two days in the area where the catheter was inserted. Therefore, it is instructed to rest and not to do any heavy physical activity for one to two days.


Which Is Preferable Between CT Scans and Angiogram?

CT scans are better than conventional angiograms as a CT scan is a noninvasive diagnostic procedure; it gives better details and pictures of the arteries. In addition, a CT scan is quicker than an angiogram.


Does Having Blocked Arteries Reduce Life Span?

Yes, blocked arteries can shorten the life span because it increases the risk of a heart attack. A heart attack can be life-threatening if not treated on time. Therefore, it is considered an emergency condition and needs to be treated urgently.


Are Angiograms Done While the Patient Is Awake?

Yes, the patient is completely awake during an angiogram. The only sensation a patient can feel is numbness where the anesthesia is injected. The patient can see but cannot feel the procedure due to anesthesia.


Is It Necessary to Take Rest After an Angiogram?

Yes, as an angiogram is an invasive procedure, the patient will have mild swelling and bruises at the operating site. Therefore, it is not advisable to return to normal daily activities right after the procedure. Rest is required.


Is There Any Preparation Needed Before an Angiogram?

Patients should stop eating or drinking 12 hours before the procedure. Only clear liquids should be taken at breakfast. This means overnight fasting is required for this procedure.


Does an Angiogram Involve the Placement of Stents?

Angiography involves the placement of a catheter into the groin or any other large artery that needs to be explored. A small amount of dye is injected into the blood vessel via the catheter, and at the same time, X-rays are taken. A blood vessel and a blockage visible on an X-ray can be highlighted using contrast dye. There, the angiogram procedure ends. Next, stent placement is done in an angioplasty procedure which can be proceeded after an angiogram.


What Negative Effects Can an Angiogram Have?

A person may have allergic reactions to the dye inserted during an angiogram. There are chances of infection, bleeding, and injury to the artery where the catheter is being inserted.


Is It Possible to Diagnose Heart Failure Through an Angiogram?

Heart failure is best diagnosed by a test called echocardiography, where pictures of the heart are taken by ultrasound of the heart. A conventional angiogram will show the blockage in the heart.


Can an Angiogram Result in a Stroke?

Stroke is the rarest complication of the angiogram. It does not occur frequently. However, it may happen during an angiogram. For the majority of catheterization operations like angiograms, rates of significant complications, such as stroke, myocardial infarction, and mortality, are less than one percent.


When Should an Angiogram Be Performed?

An angiogram is performed when a person has symptoms such as chest pain, breathlessness, anxiety, restlessness, and sweating or when the doctor suspects a blockage in the heart or coronary artery disease. The symptoms of coronary artery disease include fatigue and undiagnosed pain in the chest, jaw, neck, or arm despite having undergone an array of diagnostic exams.

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Last reviewed at:
17 Oct 2022  -  4 min read




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