Coronary Angiogram (“Angio”)
Coronary Angiogram (“Angio”)
A coronary angiogram (AN-jee-o-gram) is a procedure that uses x-ray imaging and a dye to study the heart and blood vessels. It is usually performed to look for restrictions in blood flow around the heart and assess how the heart contracts.
During a coronary angiogram, diagnosis of how narrow your coronaries are, can be made, and a decision made regarding whether a stent procedure is required or a bypass operation is required. It is a common and safe heart procedure.
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Why do I need a coronary angiogram?
Your doctor may have referred you for a coronary angiogram because you have had:
- Heart attack or at risk of having a heart attack
- Inexplicable pain in your chest, neck, jaw or arm
- Symptoms of coronary artery disease such as chest pain (angina)
- New or increasing chest pain
- Shortness of breath due to heart muscle impairment
- New diagnosis of heart failure
- A congenital heart defect
- Abnormal results from a heart stress test
- Abnormal CT coronary angiogram result
Angiograms are usually performed after other more basic tests have been performed such as a stress test or ECG. The results of your angiogram will help determine whether any further procedures may help you. For example, it may be decided that you could benefit from angioplasty or stenting to clear clogged arteries or a coronary artery bypass operation.
Risks and complications
Most procedures performed on your heart and blood vessels carry some risks. However, major complications are very rare (less than 1 in 1000). Potential complications and risks include infection, kidney damage, excessive bleeding, injury to the catheterised artery, stroke, heart attack and allergic reactions to the dye or medications used during the procedure.
How long does the procedure take?
A coronary angiogram procedure takes less than an hour.
Do I need to prepare for a coronary angiogram?
- Don’t eat or drink large quantities after midnight before the day of your angiogram.
- Take all of your medications with you to the hospital. Your doctor will tell you whether you can take your usual medications. You may be asked to stop taking blood thinners and some diabetic medications.
On the day of the procedure
Before the procedure, our healthcare team will review your medical history and perform a physical exam, checking your vital signs such as blood pressure and pulse. You’ll remove all items such as jewelry, glasses, contact lenses or dentures, then put on a hospital gown.
What happens during my coronary angiogram?
You’ll be asked to lie down on a narrow bed, then wheeled into a procedure room. You’ll be awake throughout the entire procedure, but you may be offered a sedative to help relax you. Your doctor will then:
- Give you a local anaesthetic – to numb the entry point (groin or wrist)
- Carefully insert a catheter into an artery in your groin or wrist – and move it inside the artery up to your heart. (You shouldn’t feel any pain or even be aware of the catheter moving inside you)
- Inject dye into your artery – you may feel a brief flushing or warm sensation when this happens
- Take x-rays as the dye moves through the blood vessels – this indicates where there may be narrowing or blockages in the arteries
- Remove the catheter
What happens next?
The doctor will usually inform you of the results of the angiogram shortly after completing the procedure. He will discuss the most relevant and appropriate management with you.
After your catheter is removed, either a small plug may be used to seal the entry site or manual pressure applied to the entry site or a pressure device applied to your forearm to stop any bleeding. You’ll be wheeled into a recovery area or back to your ward to rest. Depending on the angiogram results, your doctor will decide whether you should stay the night in hospital or go home.