Thumbnail image of: Heart Catheterization: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Heart, External View: Illustration

Coronary Angiogram

What is a coronary angiogram?

A coronary angiogram is a series of X-rays taken after your healthcare provider injects a dye into the blood vessels that bring blood to the heart muscle. These arteries are called the coronary arteries. The test looks for narrowing, weakness, or blockages in these arteries that decrease blood flow to the heart muscle.

When is it used?

A coronary angiogram is done to check for problems in the coronary arteries. For example, your healthcare provider can see where an artery is blocked and how much is blocked. The results can help your provider see if you need treatment to widen an artery, remove a blockage, or bypass a blockage in an artery.

You may have a coronary angiogram if:

  • You have had a stress test that shows abnormal results.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You have had a heart attack.
  • You are going to have heart surgery, like replacement of a heart valve.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

  • Plan for your care and a ride home after the procedure.
  • You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Some products may increase your risk of side effects. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Tell your provider if you have had kidney problems or an allergy to chemicals, such as contrast dye.
  • Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep you from vomiting during the procedure.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers may have more breathing problems during the procedure and heal more slowly. It’s best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery.
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

This procedure is usually done at the hospital.

Before the procedure you will be given medicine to help you relax, but you will be awake during the procedure. You will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area where the catheter will be inserted. You may also be given medicine to help prevent blood clots.

Your healthcare provider will put a small tube called a catheter through your skin and into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. Your provider will guide the catheter to the coronary arteries.

Dye will be put into your arteries and X-rays will be taken as the dye moves through them. Your healthcare provider may then put a different catheter into the heart and record the blood pressure in each of the 4 chambers of the heart and the lung arteries. Other measurements that show how your heart is working may be done as well.

At the end of the procedure, your healthcare provider will remove the catheter and put pressure on the area where the catheter was put in (the puncture site) to control any bleeding. The procedure usually takes about an hour.

What happens after the procedure?

After the procedure you may stay in a recovery area for at least a few hours or overnight. The puncture site may be bruised and sore for a few days.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • You may have problems with anesthesia.
  • You may have infection, bleeding, or blood clots.
  • Other parts of your body may be injured during the procedure.
  • You may have an allergic reaction to the dye.
  • The procedure can cause irregular heart rhythms, which might need treatment.
  • While not common, a heart attack or stroke might be triggered by the procedure.

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-21
Last reviewed: 2015-01-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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