An Angiogram is a type of xray that is done to look at blood vessels. Prior to taking the xray, a special catheter is inserted into a large artery (usually in the groin) and advanced until it reaches the arteries we are interested in studying. Once the catheter is positioned at the entrance of the desired blood vessel, a dye is injected into the blood vessel. The dye (called contrast) appears white on an xray film . As the dye flows through the blood vessels, the blood vessel shape and diameter can be seen (Image 1).

Angiograms can be used to look at most arteries in the body. A cerebral angiogram looks specifically at the blood vessles to the brain. A coronary angiogram, often called a Cardiac Catheterization or Heart Catherization (or Heart Cath) looks at the coronary arteries.

Angiograms are done to identify disease of the arteries. They can detect narrowing or blockage of a vessel, aneurysms and/or bleeding from a vessel wall.

An angioplasty is a procedure that can be performed during angiogram. During an angiogram, specially designed catheters with balloons can be inserted into a narrowed blood vessel. The balloon can be inflated to reopen the narrowed vessel (balloon angioplasty). A small stent can be inserted into the narrowing of a blood vessel to help keep it "splinted" open. This is often referred to as angioplasty with stenting.

Areas of bleeding can be controlled by inserting material that promotes clotting. For example, platinum coils or other products can be introduced ithrough the catheter, avoiding the need for more invasive surgeries. These procedures can be useful for the management of certain types of aneurysms that are hard to reach (e.g., cerebral aneurysms) or to manage bleeding following trama (e.g., vessels of the spleen). 


The insertion of small cathters, stents or coils to open up a blood vessel to stop bleeding is usually done in the xray department.

Intraveneous contrast carries a risk for kidney damage. Before giving a patient contrast, we carefully weight the potential risk against the benefi to the test. If we have to give contrast to someone whose kidneys are at risk, we may administer fluid or medication before the test to help protect the kidney.


Last Updated: October 23, 2014


Image 1: Contrast will appear white on xray. After contrast is added, the blood vessel become visible.







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Last Updated October 23, 2014 | © 2007, LHSC, London Ontario Canada