Key Points about Coronary Angiograms

  • A coronary angiogram uses X-rays to monitor blood vessels in your heart. 
  • The test is administered to identify a restriction in blood flow.
  • Coronary angiograms are usually performed in a heart catheterization laboratory.
  • They’re an outpatient procedure and you can go home the same day, in most cases. 

Overview

A coronary angiogram is a type of cardiac (heart) catheterization procedure that heart and vascular specialists use to examine the heart’s blood vessels closely. The procedure uses a special dye (contrast material) and specialized equipment to capture X-ray images of the insides of your arteries. A coronary angiogram looks at how blood flows through the heart's arteries and identifies areas of blockages or other problems.

Candidates for a coronary angiogram

Your doctor may recommend that you have a coronary angiogram if you have the following:

  • Any form of coronary artery disease
  • Chest pain
  • Abnormal results from a heart stress test
  • Issues with blood vessels
  • An injury to your chest

Risks associated with a coronary angiogram

Generally, there are few real risks associated with the test and it is considered safe when performed by an experienced team. But, like any medical procedure, there are risks, including:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • In some cases, blood clots can develop
  • Damage to the artery or vein
  • Low blood pressure

Preparing for a coronary angiogram

Your doctor may have you refrain from eating or drinking for up to 24 hours prior to taking the test. The procedure is considered an outpatient test, so you’ll be able to leave the same day. Someone will likely need to drive you home and you may consider having them stay with you for a few hours as dizziness and lightheadedness can occur.

If you’re taking medication, consult with your doctor about potential adjustments.

Duration of a coronary angiogram

Patients are generally given a mild sedative before the test.

Your doctor insert a small tube called a catheter and guide it to your heart using screens as a guide. A dye is injected to better assess things during the scanning phase.

You’ll remain awake during the procedure.

Recovery from a coronary angiogram

To help flush the dye out of your system, you should drink plenty of water. Because the test is done under a sedative, you shouldn’t operate a vehicle or heavy machinery after the test. You’ll likely be asked to avoid any strenuous activity for 3-5 following the test.