What is coronary angiography?
Coronary angiography or cardiac catheterization is an invasive diagnostic procedure that provides important information about the structure and function of the heart.
It usually involves taking X-ray pictures of the heart’s arteries (coronary arteries) using a technique called coronary angiography or arteriography. The resulting images are known as coronary angiograms or arteriograms.
Reasons for coronary angiography
Coronary angiography can be used to help diagnose heart conditions, help plan future treatments and carry out certain procedures. For example, it may be used:
- After a heart attack – where the heart’s blood supply is blocked.
- To help diagnose angina – where pain in the chest is caused by a restricted blood supply to the heart.
- To plan interventional or surgical procedures – such as a coronary angioplasty, where narrowed or blocked blood vessels are widened.
- Coronary angiography is also considered to be the best method of diagnosing coronary heart disease.
Risks of the procedure
Coronary angiography is generally considered to be safe procedures. However, as with all medical procedures, there are some associated risks. The main risks of coronary angiography include:
- Bleeding under the skin at the wound site (haematoma).
- Allergy to the contrast dye used.
In very rare cases, more serious complications of coronary angiography can occur. These include:
- Damage to the artery in the arm or groin in which the catheter was inserted.
- Heart attack.
- Damage to the kidneys caused by the contrast dye.
- Tissue damage caused by X-ray radiation if the procedure is prolonged death.
The risk of a serious complication occurring is estimated to be less than 1 in 1,000. People with serious underlying heart problems are most at risk.
Before the procedure
Before the procedure is carried out, you should tell your cardiologist at Manipal if you have any allergies and if you are taking any medication, either for a heart problem or another medical condition. You will be told whether to continue taking your medication or if you need to stop. You should not stop taking prescribed medication unless you are advised to do so. You will also be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours before the procedure.
During the procedure
During the procedure, a long, thin and flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. Using X-ray images as a guide, the tip of the catheter is passed up to the heart and coronary arteries.
A special type of dye called contrast medium is injected into the catheter and X-ray images (angiograms) are taken.
The procedure is usually carried out under local anesthetic, so you will be awake while the procedure is carried out, but the area where the catheter is inserted will be numbed.
After the procedure
You should be able to sit up straight away and you may be able to walk around soon afterwards if the catheter was inserted into your arm.
Most people are able to go home on the same day the procedure is carried out, although you will need to arrange a lift home from a family member or friend.You should also make sure that someone stays with you overnight in case you experience any problems.
You will be advised about things to do or avoid during your recovery before leaving the hospital. Examples of advice you may be given include:
- Avoid having a bath for a day or two. You can still take a shower, but try to keep the wound as dry as possible.
- Do not drive until advised that it is safe to do so, which may not be for up to three days.
- Avoid playing sport, excessive activity or lifting anything heavy for about two days.