A coronary angiogram is a diagnostic test that uses dye and special X-rays to examine the insides of your arteries—the pathways that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart—and to check for valve disease or occasionally for heart muscle disease.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when plaque builds up on the inside walls of the coronary arteries, causing them to narrow. It can lead to angina (chest pain) or a heart attack. Angiography shows whether you have CAD, and if you do, what the extent of it is and how it can be treated. CAD is treated using combinations of medicines, angioplasty, stenting or coronary artery bypass graft surgery.
Cardiac catheterization is used to get the dye to your coronary arteries. The procedure begins with a local anesthetic, administered through the arm or groin. Then a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter is placed into a blood vessel in your groin—or sometimes a wrist or arm. The tube is threaded into your coronary arteries, and the dye is injected into your bloodstream. Special X-rays are taken while the dye is flowing through the coronary arteries.
Our board-certified cardiologists perform angiograms in the cath lab (catheterization laboratory) in our state-of-the-art Heart & Vascular Center. Patients are awake during the procedure, which usually causes little or no pain. Patients report that the motion of the catheter in the body can’t be felt. Should there be any discomfort at all, our experienced cath lab staff is trained to notice symptoms and provide immediate relief. Following the procedure, you receive notification of the results.
What to expect after an angiogram
Cardiac catheterization rarely causes serious complications. The most common problem is some minor back pain from lying in one position for a long time. Bleeding may occur at the puncture site, but the need for a transfusion is rare.
While an angiogram is a diagnostic tool, if there is an immediate need, it can be combined with therapeutic angioplasty and stenting—to spare you from going through the same catheterization procedure twice.
We’re here to care for you—and to help you take care of your heart. Talk to us about lifestyle changes you can make for a longer, fuller life.
Interactive tool: Should I have an angiogram?
“Diagnosis and therapeutic care in the cath lab—as we pinpoint problems, we can sometimes relieve heart issues at the same time, in a relatively painless and fast way.”
- Christopher C. Johnson, MD
Board Certified Cardiologist