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What Is Coronary Angiogram?
Coronary angiogram is a procedure examining the blood vessels or chambers of the heart. A tube is inserted either in your groin or arm. When it reaches either the heart or the arteries supplying the heart, a special fluid (called a contrast medium or dye) is injected. This fluid is visible by X-ray. The resulting pictures are called angiograms.

This procedure is also called:
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Heart Cath
  • Angiogram
Angiogram is usually done to evaluate the following:
  • How well the heart muscle and valves are working
  • The extent of damage to the heart after a heart attack
  • The presence of narrowed coronary arteries
  • The extent and degree of the narrowing
  • Required course of treatment:
What Preparation Is Needed?
Please follow these precautions before coming to an angioplasty:
  • Do not eat or drink after midnight.

  • If you are taking any medications, please consult us about the following:
    • How to adjust insulin and food intake prior to the test.

    • Whether to take your regular medications the morning of the test.

    • If you are taking blood thinners (such as Coumadin), ask us whether you should stop the medication for a pre-determined period before coming to a procedure.

  • Leave all valuables at home.

  • Plan to be admitted to the hospital overnight.

  • Make arrangements to be driven home the following day.

How Coronary Angiogram Is Performed?
Angiogram is not a surgical procedure. If you are going to undergo the procedure, you should be prepared for the following:
  1. A catheter is inserted through an artery in the thigh or an arm up into the heart.

  2. You will be given a mild sedative to help you relax.

  3. You will remain awake during the procedure in order to answer questions regarding you comfort level (you should mention if you feel any chest pain or shortness of breath).

  4. The catheter is inserted through the femoral artery in the groin (or an artery in the arm at the crease of the elbow).

  5. X-ray is used to guide the catheter up into the heart.

  6. A colorless dye is injected through the catheter, and X-ray pictures are taken of the heart and coronary arteries.

  7. The patient can watch the procedure on the monitor if he wants to.

  8. The test usually takes about an hour.

Risk Factors
While there are some risks involved in any procedure, coronary angiograms are widely used and complications are rare, occurring in less than 3 percent of patients. These potential complications include:
  • Bleeding in the area of the catheter insertion
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia)
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to the dye
  • Damage to the arteries
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Air embolism (damage caused by air in the bloodstream)
  • Death

The risk of complications is greater if people are over the age of 70, or have conditions such as diabetes, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) or kidney failure.

What Happens After The Procedure?
After angioplasty is done, you should observe the following precautions:
  • Avoid bending the leg at the hip for 6-8 hours after the catheter is removed.

  • Avoid bending or using the arm for several hours if it was used for the insertion of the catheter.

  • Hold the band aid firmly if you need to cough or sneeze.

Please contact us immediately, if you experience any of the following symptoms:
  • Discomfort or sudden pain at the insertion site.
  • A warm, moist and sticky feeling or bleeding at the insertion site.
  • Any discomfort in:
    • chest
    • neck
    • jaws
    • arms
    • upper back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

Useful Links
  1. Cardiac Catheterization and Angiography
    This article provides a basic level introduction into a coronary angiogram. It is well structured, organized into practical categories such as purpose, preparation, advantages/disadvantages, etc. The article also contains helpful illustrations.

  2. Coronary Angiography
    American Heart Association provides basic information on coronary angiography, its pros and its cons. The article also links to alternative cardiological procedures.
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