Coronary Angiogram

A coronary angiogram is a procedure that uses X-ray imaging to see your heart’s blood vessels. The test is generally done to see if there’s a restriction in blood flow going to the heart.

Coronary angiograms are part of a general group of procedures known as heart (cardiac) catheterizations. Cardiac catheterization procedures can both diagnose and treat heart and blood vessel conditions. A coronary angiogram, which can help diagnose heart conditions, is the most common type of cardiac catheterization procedure.

Illustration depicting cardiac catheterization

During a coronary angiogram, a type of dye that’s visible by an X-ray machine is injected into the blood vessels of your heart. The X-ray machine rapidly takes a series of images (angiograms), offering a look at your blood vessels. If necessary, your doctor can open clogged heart arteries (angioplasty) during your coronary angiogram.

Why are coronary angiograms done?

Your doctor may recommend that you have a coronary angiogram if you have:

  • Symptoms of coronary artery disease, such as chest pain (angina).
  • Pain in your chest, jaw, neck or arm that can’t be explained by other tests.
  • New or increasing chest pain (unstable angina).
  • A heart defect you were born with (congenital heart disease).
  • Abnormal results on a Nuclear Stress Test.
  • A heart valve problem that requires surgery.

How do I prepare for the test?

  • Don’t eat or drink anything 6 hours before your angiogram.
  • The office staff will instruct you as to what medications to stop or continue taking.
  • Make sure you have a driver to take you home.
  • Take all your medications to the hospital with you in their original bottles. Ask your doctor about whether or not to take your usual morning medications.
  • If you have diabetes, ask your doctor if you should take insulin or other oral medications before your angiogram.
  • Plan on being at the catheterization lab approximately 6-8 hours

What should I expect during the procedure?

An IV line is inserted into a vein in your arm. You will be given a sedative through the IV to help you relax, as well as other medications and fluids. You’ll be very sleepy and may drift off to sleep during the procedure, but you’ll still be able to be easily awakened to follow any instructions.

Electrodes on your chest monitor your heart throughout the procedure. A blood pressure cuff tracks your blood pressure and another device, a pulse oximeter, measures the amount of oxygen in your blood.

A small amount of hair may be shaved from your groin or wrist where the procedure will be performed. The area is disinfected and you will be covered with a large sterile drape.

The doctor will numb the area then make a needle puncture through your skin and into a blood vessel.  A small straw-sized tube (called a sheath) will be inserted into the artery. The doctor will gently guide a catheter (a long, thin tube) into your vessel through the sheath. A video screen will show the position of the catheter as it is threaded through the major blood vessels and to the heart. You may feel some pressure in your groin, but you shouldn’t feel any pain.

Dye (contrast material) is injected through the catheter. When this happens, you may have a brief sensation of flushing or warmth. The dye is easy to see on X-ray images. As it moves through your blood vessels, your doctor can observe its flow and identify any blockages or constricted areas. Depending on what your doctor discovers during your angiogram, you may have additional catheter procedures at the same time, such as a balloon angioplasty or a stent placement to open up a narrowed artery.

Having an angiogram takes about one hour. Preparation and recovery add more time.

What should I expect after the procedure?

When the angiogram is over, the catheter is removed from your arm or groin. The location of the sheath is closed by holding manual pressure to the site or by inserting a small collagen plug (closure device).

You’ll be taken to a recovery area for observation and monitoring. If the procedure was performed through the groin, you will need to lie flat for several hours to avoid bleeding. You will be able to drink and eat a light snack.

Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the dye from your body.

Your health care team will give you discharge instructions. They will let you know when to resume taking medications, bathing or showering, working, and doing other normal activities. Avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting for several days.

Your puncture site is likely to remain tender for a while. It may be slightly bruised and have a small bump.

How do I get started?

Contact San Tan Cardiovascular Center today to make an appointment with one of our healthcare providers.

At this appointment:

  • we will review your medical history, discuss your symptoms and perform a non-invasive, diagnostic test to further determine your medical condition,
  • any pertinent testing that needs to be done beforehand will also be ordered at this time.

Our billing department will then contact your health insurance company to obtain prior authorization.  Upon receiving insurance authorization, the procedure will be scheduled.