An arteriogram is a procedure that produces an image of your arteries. During the procedure, your doctor will use dye (also known as contrast material) and X-rays to observe the flow of blood through your arteries and note any blockages.
This procedure, also known as an angiogram, can be done on many different parts of the body. The terms “arteriogram” and “angiogram” (and the related “arteriography” and “angiography”) are not specific to a particular part of the body. These terms simply refer to a particular method of observing your arteries.
The words preceding “arteriogram” or “angiogram” let you know which part of the body will be involved in the test. For example, an aortic arteriogram observes the blood flow through the aorta, which is the main artery in your body.
Arteriograms can be used in many areas of the body. In fact, there are seven different types. They are:
- aortic angiography (aorta)
- cerebral angiography (brain)
- coronary angiography (heart)
- extremity arteriography (extremities: arms, legs, hands, and feet)
- fluorescein angiography (parts of the eye: the retina and choroid)
- pulmonary angiography (lungs)
- renal arteriography (kidneys)
How you prepare for your arteriogram depends on the body part involved. However, there are certain things you should do regardless of the type of arteriogram.
First, it’s important to let your doctor know what medications and supplements you are taking. You may need to stop taking medications that affect blood clotting, such as aspirin or blood-thinning medications. You may also need to stop smoking before the procedure.
Tell your doctor about any known allergies you have to medications, shellfish, iodine, or X-ray contrast material. You should also let your doctor know if you have any history of problems with blood clotting. Also, if you’re pregnant, make sure to tell your doctor.
Your doctor will let you know whether or not you can eat or drink before the test. The required fasting time depends on the type of arteriogram being done.
The details of your procedure depend on the body part involved. During a cerebral angiogram, for example, your head will be held in place in order to produce a clear image during the procedure.
However, the general procedure is similar in some ways. Before the procedure, your doctor may have you take a sedative.
During the procedure, you will sit or lie down. Your doctor will insert a catheter into a vein or artery, typically in your leg. Your doctor will guide this catheter through your blood vessels to reach the correct area. Then a contrast material will be injected into the catheter and the dye will flow into the surrounding arteries.
Your doctor will use X-ray images to follow the path of the dye through your arteries. This helps to reveal any blockages. The procedure can also reveal arterial damage or narrowing.
The catheter will be near the area of any blockage that may be found, so your doctor may use the catheter to treat the issue during the procedure. Your doctor may administer medication through the catheter to resolve a blood clot.
An arteriogram can help doctors detect several conditions and abnormalities. These include:
- narrowing of blood vessels
Your doctor will use the findings to help figure out how best to treat your particular condition.
General risks of an arteriogram include:
- infection at the place where the catheter was inserted
- blood clots
- damage to blood vessels
Other risks include an allergic reaction to the dye or kidney damage from the dye used. Some patients may also experience blood clots or damage to blood vessels.
Specific types of arteriograms may carry additional risks. Although rare, a coronary arteriography might lead to low blood pressure, a stroke, or a heart attack. According to the NIH, serious complications from a coronary angiography occur in 1 in 500 to 1 in 1,000 cases.
After the doctor removes the catheter, pressure will be applied to the insertion site.
Depending on the location of the insertion site and the type of arteriogram, you may need to lie on your back or keep a specific body part still for up to several hours after the procedure.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions regarding physical activity and wound care. In general, you should avoid strenuous physical activity for up to a week. You should also keep the bandage on the insertion site dry for approximately two days.