angiography What is coronary angiography?

Coronary angiography is a special X-ray of the coronary arteries.

With coronary angiography, dye is injected down the coronary arteries. The arteries and their smaller branches then show up clearly on an X-ray. Dye is injected into the coronary arteries by using a special thin long plastic tube that is inserted into a major artery in your leg or arm.

Therefore, coronary angiography can show the exact site and severity of any narrowing of the coronary arteries.

Like any other muscle, the heart muscle needs a good blood supply. The coronary arteries take blood to the heart muscle.

Any narrowing in the blood vessels of the heart leads to a situation where in the heart is not able to keep up with the demand for blood in situations of stress like sports or emotional excitement. This may lead to angina, a pain felt due to decreased blood supply to the heart.

How is coronary angiography done?

You lie on a couch in a catheterisation room. An X-ray machine is mounted above the couch. A catheter is inserted through a wide needle or small cut in the skin into a blood vessel in the groin or arm

The doctor gently pushes the catheter up the blood vessel towards the heart. Low-dose X-rays are used to monitor the progress of the catheter tip which is gently manipulated into the correct position.

The tip of the catheter is pushed just inside a main coronary artery. Some dye is then injected down the catheter into the artery. Several X-ray films are rapidly taken as the dye is injected. The X-ray films are recorded as a moving picture and this is called an angiogram.

You cannot feel the catheter inside the blood vessels. You may feel an occasional 'missed' or 'extra' heartbeat during the procedure. This is normal and of little concern.

How do I prepare for a coronary angiography?
  • Before the day of the test you may need a blood test and an ECG to make sure you are OK to have the procedure.
  • If you may be pregnant, you need to tell the doctor who will do the test.
  • You may be asked to stop eating and drinking for six hours before the test.
  • You may be asked to shave both groins before the test.
  • You will have to sign a consent form at some point before the test to confirm that you understand the procedure, understand the possible complications, and agree to the procedure being done.
How long does coronary angiography take?

It usually takes about 30 minutes. In most cases it is done as a day-case procedure.After the test

  • The doctor will discuss what he or she found during the test.
  • You will need to rest for a few hours after the test.
  • Most people are able to resume their normal activities the next day.
  • There may be some bruising at the site of the catheter insertion which may be a little sore when the anaesthetic wears off.
  • Painkillers such as paracetamol will help.
  • The dye may give you a hot, flushing feeling when it is injected.
  • Serious complications are rare, but do sometimes occur. For example, some people have had a stroke or a heart attack (myocardial infarction) during the procedure. Also, rarely, the catheter may damage a coronary artery.

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