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Coronary Angiography

Angiography is a special type of moving X-ray that lets your doctor view your coronary arteries to see if the blood vessels to your heart are narrowed or blocked. This test is done when someone is having a heart attack. Or it may be done if symptoms may mean a heart attack. It also may be done after an irregular stress test.

 Before the procedure

  • Tell your healthcare team what medicines you take and any allergies you may have.

  • Tell your healthcare team if you've had a reaction to contrast dye or have had any kidney problems.

  • Don’t eat or drink anything for at least 6 to 8 hours before the procedure. You will likely be told not to have anything after midnight, the night before the procedure.

  • A nurse will place an IV (intravenous) catheter in your vein to give fluids, and medicine to relieve pain and help you feel less anxious.

  • He or she will clean your skin and shave the area where the catheter will be inserted, if needed.

During the procedure

  • Your doctor will place a long, thin tube called a catheter inside an artery in your groin or arm and guide it into your heart. You may feel pressure with the insertion of the catheter.

  • He or she will inject a contrast dye through the catheter into your blood vessels or heart chambers. You may feel a warm sensation or feeling like you have to urinate when the contrast is injected. This is normal.

  • X-rays are taken to show images of the inside of your heart and coronary arteries.

Male figure showing heart and arteries. Catheter goes from artery in thigh to heart.
The catheter can be placed into the groin, arm, or wrist.

After the procedure

  • Your healthcare team will tell you how long to lie down and keep the insertion site still.

  • If the insertion site was in your groin, you may need to lie down with your leg still for several hours. If the insertion site was in your wrist, a pressure bandage will be put on the site. It will be taken off when there is no sign of bleeding. If bleeding occurs, a nurse will put pressure on the area to control it.

  • A nurse will check your blood pressure and the insertion site often. This is to make sure you remain stable after the procedure.

  • You may be asked to drink fluid to help flush the contrast liquid out of your system.

  • Have someone drive you home from the hospital.

  • If your doctor uses angioplasty or stent to treat a blocked artery, you may stay the night in the hospital. If there are multiple blockages that can't be fixed with a stent or angioplasty, you may need surgery to bypass the blockages (bypass surgery). Your doctor will explain the results of your test and what treatment options that may be best for you.

  • It’s normal to find a small bruise or lump at the insertion site. The lump may be the collagen plug or stitch that you feel, or a small bruise. These common side effects should disappear within a few weeks.

  • You will be given instructions by your healthcare team on recovering from the coronary angiography. In general, don't lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for several days. This gives time for the puncture site in the artery wall to heal. Try not to get the puncture site wet. Don't put it under water. Showers are OK. Don't soak in a bathtub, swimming pool, or hot tub until the skin has healed.

When to call your healthcare provider

Contact your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or drainage at the insertion site

  • Severe pain, coldness, or a bluish color in the leg or arm that held the catheter

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38°C), or as advised by your provider

Online Medical Reviewer: Glenn Gandelman MD MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Mandy Snyder APRN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
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