Angiography, also known as an angiogram, is an X-ray exam of the arteries and veins.
It is used to diagnose blockages and other blood vessel problems. During an angiography, your interventional radiologist inserts a thin tube — a catheter — into the artery through a small nick in the skin about the size of the tip of a pencil. A contrast agent — X-ray dye — is injected to make the blood vessels visible on the X-ray. The exam is performed in the hospital in the interventional radiology suite.
Why is angiography performed?
A common reason to have an angiogram is to determine if there is a blockage or narrowing in a blood vessel that may interfere with the normal flow of blood through the body. Angiograms are also performed to detect aneurysms (an area of a blood vessel that bulges or balloons out), cerebral vascular disease, and blood vessel malformations
If there is a problem, what can be done?
In many cases, the interventional radiologist can treat a blocked blood vessel without surgery at the time the angiogram is performed. Interventional radiologists can treat some venous blockages with a procedure called an angioplasty, in which a catheter is threaded to the site of the blocked artery using X-ray guidance. The balloon is inflated to open the artery. Sometimes, a small metal scaffold, called a stent, is inserted to keep the blood vessel open.
If the blockage in an artery is caused by a blood clot, thrombolysis may be the treatment of choice. Thrombolytic drugs that dissolve clots are injected through a catheter to eliminate the clot and restore blood flow.