(Catheter Angiography; Arteriography; Angiogram)

Definition    TOP

An angiography is an x-ray exam of the blood vessels. The exam uses a chemical that is injected into the blood vessels. The chemical makes the blood vessels easier to see on the x-ray.


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Reasons for Procedure    TOP

This procedure may be done to:

  • Identify narrowed, enlarged, and blocked blood vessels
  • Determine if there is blood leaking out of the vessels and into other parts of your body

In some cases, a blocked blood vessel can be treated during the procedure. This would prevent the need for another procedure.

Possible Complications    TOP

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Allergic reaction to the chemical used
  • Abnormal heart beats, called arrhythmias
  • Bleeding at point of catheter insertion
  • Damage to blood vessels, which can cause damage to organs and tissue
  • Kidney damage from contrast material
  • Infection
  • Stroke

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Allergies, especially to x-ray dye, iodine, medications, or certain foods, including shellfish
  • Kidney problems
  • Diabetes
  • Bleeding disorder

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Procedure

Before the test, your doctor may:

  • Ask about your medical history
  • Perform a physical exam
  • Do blood tests
  • Recommend stopping certain medications

You will need to arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.


A local anesthesia will be injected into your arm or groin. A small dose of sedative may also be given by IV.

Description of the Procedure    TOP

An area of your groin or arm will be cleaned. This is where a catheter will be inserted. A small incision will be made into your skin. The catheter will be placed through the incision into an artery. The catheter will be guided through the arteries to the area to be examined. The contrast material is injected through the catheter. The procedure will be viewed on a nearby monitor. Several sets of x-rays will be taken. The catheter will then be removed. Pressure will be applied to the area for about 10 minutes.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

Less than an hour to several hours. It depends on whether the doctor decides to fix any problems at the same time.

How Much Will It Hurt?    TOP

Although the procedure is not painful, you may feel the following discomfort:

  • Brief sting when local anesthesia is injected
  • Pressure when the catheter is inserted
  • Hot and flushed sensation when the contrast material is injected

Post-procedure Care    TOP

At the Care Center

Immediately following the procedure:

  • You will need to lie flat for a period of time. The length of time depends on your overall health and the reason for the exam.
  • You may need to have pressure applied to the entry site to control bleeding.
  • Tell the nurse if you notice any swelling, bleeding, black and blue marks, or pain where the catheter was inserted.
  • You will be encouraged to drink a lot of fluids to flush the contrast material from your system.
  • You may be allowed to leave the hospital after this recovery period. The length of your stay will depend on your other medical problems.

At Home

When you return home after the procedure, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

Results    TOP

The doctor will examine the x-rays. Your doctor will discuss the findings and any necessary treatment options with you.

Call Your Doctor    TOP

Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the catheter site
  • Extreme sweating, nausea, or vomiting
  • Extreme pain, including chest pain
  • Leg or arm feels cold, turns white or blue, or becomes numb or tingly
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Any problems with your speech or vision
  • Facial weakness

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American Heart Association
Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America


The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Angiogram. VascularWeb website. Available at: Updated January 2011. Accessed March 1, 2016.
Angiogram (arteriogram). California Pacific Medical Center website. Available at:
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Updated March 2015. Accessed March 1, 2016.
Catheter angiography. Radiological Society of North American Radiology Info website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated February 12, 2014. Accessed March 1, 2016.
What is coronary angiography. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 2, 2012. Accessed March 1, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 5/2/2014

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