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 don’t show up 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.

This procedure allows doctors to 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.

Your doctor 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. They may also use this test to assess the extent of these conditions.

In general, your doctor will ask you not to eat or drink anything for roughly eight hours before your renal arteriography. Your doctor’s exact instructions may vary. 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 currently 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

Make sure you let your doctor know if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. The low levels of radiation involved in this procedure aren’t usually considered harmful. Still, your doctor might decide that it is too risky for a developing fetus or for mother’s milk.

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

In most cases, you’ll receive a sedative before the procedure. This sedative will help you relax but won’t make you completely unconscious.

Your doctor will then insert a narrow tube, called a catheter, into your artery. They’ll inject the dye through this tube.

Before injecting the dye, your doctor has to get the catheter into the right position. They do this by carefully guiding it through your blood vessels until it reaches your aorta.

When the catheter is in position, the dye is injected. Your doctor will take multiple X-rays as the dye travels through your blood vessels. The dye makes the vessels appear on the X-ray so that your doctor to see if there are blockages.

In some cases, your doctor may choose to treat a problem during the procedure. For example, if they find a clot or tumor, they may inject medication on the spot to help treat it.

Once the doctor is finished, the catheter will be removed.

This is a fairly safe procedure. Serious complications are rare. There’s a possibility that you’ll experience an allergic reaction to the contrast material used in this procedure, but they’re rare.

There’s small chance you’ll have other complications such as:

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

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. Make sure to tell your doctor if you’re pregnant.

After your renal arteriography, you’ll need some time to recover. You shouldn’t drive for 24 hours, so you should arrange for someone to pick you up after the procedure. Avoid exercise or heavy lifting for about a week. Your doctor may give you additional instructions.