Pulmonary Angiography: Purpose, Procedure & Risks
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Pulmonary Angiography

What Is a Pulmonary Angiography?

Highlights

  1. A pulmonary angiography is typically used to detect a blood clot in your lungs.
  2. A dye is injected into your veins in order for them to show up on X-ray.
  3. It is a relatively safe and easy procedure and you can go about your normal day afterward.

An angiography, sometimes called an arteriography, is a test doctors use to see your arteries. To perform this procedure, you will receive an injection of a contrast dye, which will then allow your arteries to show up in an X-ray.

A pulmonary angiography is typically performed to measure the pressure of the blood vessels carrying blood to your lungs and to evaluate for blockages or narrowing of these blood vessels from, for example, a blood clot.

How Should I Prepare for a Pulmonary Angiography?

Diagnosis

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. You will likely need to fast for six to eight hours before the test to avoid vomiting or feeling nauseous during the procedure.

Provide your doctor with any important medical information, such as telling them you are pregnant, as X-rays can be harmful to the fetus. You should also let your doctor know about any medications you are taking or any known allergies.

How Is a Pulmonary Angiography Performed?

process

You will receive an intravenous sedative to help you relax during the procedure.

Your doctor will insert a tube, called a catheter, into one of your veins. This is typically done through the vein in your groin and advanced up to the vessels in your lungs. When the catheter is in place, pressure measurements will be taken and your doctor will inject the contrast dye for better visualization of your anatomy.

Your doctor will then take X-ray images of your chest. These images show the paths and progress of the dye and helps them to figure out if you have a blockage or another problem in your arteries.

When Is a Pulmonary Angiography Used?

purpose

Most commonly, your doctor will perform a pulmonary angiography if they suspect a blockage in your pulmonary, or lung, vessels.

Your doctor can also perform a pulmonary angiography for other issues in your body, such as a potential clot or pulmonary artery aneurysm. Your doctor may also perform a pulmonary angiography if you were born with narrow blood vessels in and around your lungs, as this may manifest in heart issues and shortness of breath with activity.

In many cases, your doctor may choose to use CT angiography instead of pulmonary angiography. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, CT angiographies are performed more today than the rare pulmonary angiographies.

If you have a clot, your doctor may also choose to treat it as part of the angiography procedure.

What Are the Risks of a Pulmonary Angiography?

Risk Factors

Serious complications from this procedure are rare, but include bleeding, infection, and puncture of the lung vessels. If you are pregnant, radiation involved with the X-rays in this treatment may carry some risk for your fetus. Discuss this with your doctor before your procedure.

Some people may have an allergic reaction or decreased kidney function from the dye, and this may be more of an issue if you’re taking certain medications. Make sure to discuss with your doctor all of the medications you’re taking prior to this procedure.    

Other risks are related to the catheter. Your nerves or blood vessels may be injured as the catheter is inserted, but rarely can the catheter cause a disturbance in the rhythm of your heart.

Your doctor will be aware of these risks and will be ready to treat them if they occur.

After the Procedure

Outlook

The whole procedure generally takes a few hours and you will be monitored afterward as a precaution. Generally, you can drive home yourself and continue with normal activities.

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