Renal Arteriography

Written by Gretchen Holm | Published on July 23, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is a Renal Arteriography?

Renal arteriography, also known as renal angiography, gives your doctors a way to see the blood vessels in your kidneys. Your blood vessels are not visible on an X-ray. This can make it difficult for your doctors to get an accurate image of them.

In an arteriography, doctors inject a special kind of dye into your blood vessels. This dye, also called contrast material, shows up on the X-ray.

Doctors then take an X-ray of your kidneys and can see the dye. This allows them to effectively see your veins. They will be able to see blockages, clots, narrowing, and other problems.

Arteriographies can be done on many parts of the body. The term “renal” refers to your kidneys, so a renal arteriography is one that highlights your kidney’s blood vessels.

How Should I Prepare for a Renal Arteriography?

In general, your doctor will ask you not to eat or drink anything for approximately eight hours before your renal arteriography. Your doctor’s exact instructions may vary, so make sure to find out how long he or she wants you to fast before the procedure. In some cases, you may need to begin your fast as early as the night before your procedure.

Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking. This includes herbal preparations and over-the-counter medicines. Even some medicines that seem harmless can affect the procedure or your body’s reaction to the dye. Aspirin, for example, can affect your blood’s ability to clot. Your doctor may tell you to temporarily stop taking some or all of your medications before the procedure.

You should also tell your doctor if you have allergies to:

  • any medications
  • latex
  • iodine substances
  • any anesthetics
  • contrast dye

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, make sure that your doctor knows in advance. While the low levels of radiation involved in this procedure aren’t usually considered harmful, your doctor might decide that it is too risky for a developing fetus or for mother’s milk.

How Is a Renal Arteriography Performed?

When you arrive for the procedure, you will need to sign a consent form and change into a hospital gown. Your doctor will also instruct you to remove any jewelry.

In most cases, you will receive a sedative before the procedure. This sedative will help you relax, but it will not make you completely unconscious.

Your doctor will then insert a narrow tube into an artery. This tube is called a catheter. This is the tube through which the dye will eventually be injected.

Before injecting the dye, however, the healthcare provider must get the catheter into the right position. He or she does this by carefully guiding it through your blood vessels until it reaches your aorta.

When the catheter is in position, your healthcare provider will inject the dye. He or she will then take multiple X-rays as the dye travels through your blood vessels. The dye makes the vessels appear on the X-ray, allowing your doctor to see if there are blockages.

When Is a Renal Arteriography Used?

Your healthcare provider will typically perform this procedure if you have problems with the blood vessels in your kidneys. Possible problems include:

  • blood clots
  • blockages
  • abnormal structural issues
  • spasms in the vessels
  • tumors
  • high blood pressure in the vessels
  • widened blood vessels

If you have kidney disease or kidney failure, your doctor may perform this procedure to help monitor your condition. He or she may also use this test to assess the extent of these conditions.

In some cases, your doctor may choose to treat a problem during this procedure. For example, if he or she finds a clot or tumor, medication may be injected on the spot to help treat the issue.

What Are the Risks of a Renal Arteriography?

This is a fairly safe procedure. Serious complications are rare.

Most doctors believe that the radiation levels involved in the test are safe. The radiation may be more of a risk for a developing fetus, which is why you must tell your doctor if you are pregnant.

There’s a chance that you will experience an allergic reaction to the contrast material used in this procedure, but allergic reactions are rare.

There is a small chance that you will have other complications. Possibilities include:

  • infections
  • blood clots
  • nerve injury
  • damage to an artery
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