Both the angiogram and angioplasty are useful tools when diagnosing and treating blockages and other heart issues. Both procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and are minimally invasive.

If you experience pain or tightness in your chest, your doctor may order testing or treatment in a catheterization lab.

Two procedures you may encounter are angiogram and angioplasty. While these procedures sound nearly identical in name, they are not the same thing.

Here’s more about these procedures, when they are necessary, and what you might expect during each procedure and while you recover.

An angiogram is an imaging scan that shows blood flow in your blood vessels using X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans. A coronary angiogram allows healthcare professionals to see your coronary arteries.

Angioplasty, on the other hand, is a procedure in which healthcare professionals insert balloons or stents into an artery in your heart to treat blockages and narrowing.

The two procedures are performed in similar ways.

An angiogram is performed using a thin tube called a catheter. A healthcare professional will thread the catheter through your arm or groin and into an artery that leads to your heart. They will then inject contrast dye through the catheter to help capture images of the blood vessels in your heart using X-ray technology.

An angioplasty also involves threading a catheter through an artery leading to your heart. But instead of collecting images, a healthcare professional uses the catheter to place a balloon or stent at the site of the blockage. Once the device is installed, the blockage is flattened against the artery wall so it does not block blood flow to your heart.

An angiogram may lead to an angioplasty. In these cases, healthcare professionals use the angiogram as a diagnostic tool to evaluate blockages in your arteries before treating them with angioplasty.

Yes. Your doctor will order an angiogram to view the arteries of your heart. They will use it to gather images that show them where any blockages are located in your arteries.

If they find blockages, angioplasty is one treatment option.

In fact, your angiogram may progress to an angioplasty in the same visit.

Not always. An angioplasty can be completed using a balloon or a stent. The balloon is small and thin. Once placed, it is gently inflated to address the blockage.

Stents have become more commonplace in modern angioplasty. A stent is a short tube made from wire mesh. It is inserted into the artery and serves as scaffolding to hold the artery open and allow for optimal blood flow.

If the blockage is severe, your doctor may recommend a procedure called coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

An angiogram is an imaging procedure that doctors use to find and diagnose blockages. It is not a method of treating those blockages.

If your angiogram shows blockages, your doctor may follow up with an angioplasty to treat the blockages with a balloon or stent. These two procedures can be performed during the same visit.

If a blockage does not limit blood flow to your heart, your doctor may suggest other treatments instead of angioplasty, including:

Both angiogram and angioplasty are performed in a heart catheterization lab. They are outpatient procedures, which means they are minimally invasive and do not involve significant recovery time.


An angiogram takes 30–50 minutes. Your care team will give you an intravenous (IV) medication to lightly sedate you, along with other fluids and medications. They will also numb the area (groin or arm) where the catheter will be inserted into your artery.

During the procedure, a healthcare professional will inject contrast fluid to help with collecting images. Your doctor may ask you to cough or hold your breath during the procedure. After your doctor analyzes the images, they may or may not recommend following up with an angioplasty or other treatment.

If an angioplasty is necessary, healthcare professionals will use the catheter to insert either a balloon or a stent into the affected artery. An angioplasty may take 30 minutes to 2 hours to complete.

During these procedures, you may experience temporary discomfort such as:

  • pressure when the catheter is inserted
  • the need to urinate
  • warmth from the fluids
  • nausea
  • chest pain


If the catheter was inserted through your groin, your doctor will use a suture device to put in a stitch. This procedure usually requires a period of rest afterward, during which your healthcare team will check for bleeding or chest discomfort. Procedures done through your arm do not typically involve this added step.

Your doctor may ask that you stay in the hospital for extra monitoring.

Your doctor might prescribe baby aspirin or other blood-thinning medication to prevent blood clots.

They may also tell you to go easy and avoid vigorous exercise, including heavy lifting, for a day or two.

An angiogram or angioplasty will not necessarily affect your life expectancy. But the procedures do have certain risks, including bleeding, stroke, and heart attack.

Stents are permanent once placed. The affected area may sometimes re-narrow (this is called restenosis) and require a replacement stent.

The underlying issues that led to the blockages or narrowing may affect your life expectancy. Talk with your doctor about any other treatments, such as medication and lifestyle changes, that may be necessary to prevent complications such as a heart attack.

Doctors use an angiogram to diagnose issues that can be treated using medication, lifestyle strategies, angioplasty, or surgery.

You can discuss with your doctor whether you might need either of these procedures and what it will involve. Prompt treatment of blockages in your heart can help prevent life threatening complications.