What is coronary angiogram?

Jump To

Coronary angiogram with possible treatment: Overview

A coronary angiogram is a test to look at the blood vessels of your heart. These are called the coronary arteries. You may have this test to see if any of these arteries are narrowed or blocked. The test may also be used to measure the pressure in your heart's chambers. A doctor will put a thin, flexible tube into a blood vessel in your groin or wrist. This tube is called a catheter.

During the test, the doctor moves the catheter through the blood vessel and into your heart. Then the doctor puts a dye into the catheter. This makes your coronary arteries show up on a screen. Your doctor can see if the arteries are blocked or narrowed.

If you have a narrowed or blocked artery, the doctor may do an angioplasty or a coronary stent procedure. In an angioplasty, the doctor puts a catheter with a tiny balloon at the tip into the blocked area and inflates it. The balloon presses the fatty buildup (plaque) against the walls of the artery. This makes more room for blood to flow.

In most cases, the doctor then puts a stent in the artery. A stent is a small, expandable tube. It presses against the walls of the artery. The stent is left in the artery to keep it open. This helps blood flow. The catheter is removed from your body.

Cardiac Catheterization and Coronary Angiogram

Cardiac catheterization is a test to check your heart. This test uses a thin flexible tube called a catheter that is inserted into the heart through blood vessels. This test can include a coronary angiogram, which checks blood flow in the coronary arteries.

A cardiac catheterization can also check blood flow and blood pressure in the chambers of the heart, find out how well the heart valves work, check for defects in the heart, or check how well the wall of the heart moves.

How can you care for yourself after a coronary angiogram?

Activity

  • If the doctor gave you a sedative:
    • For 24 hours, don't do anything that requires attention to detail, such as going to work, making important decisions, or signing any legal documents. It takes time for the medicine's effects to completely wear off.
    • For your safety, do not drive or operate any machinery that could be dangerous. Wait until the medicine wears off and you can think clearly and react easily.
  • Do not do strenuous exercise and do not lift, pull, or push anything heavy until your doctor says it is okay. This may be for several days. You can walk around the house and do light activity, such as cooking.
  • If the catheter was placed in your groin, try not to walk up stairs for the first couple of days.
  • If the catheter was placed in your wrist, do not bend your wrist deeply for the first couple of days. Be careful using your hand to get into and out of a chair or bed.
  • Get regular exercise. Walking may be a good choice. Try for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Diet

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help your body flush out the dye. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Keep eating a heart-healthy diet that has lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you have not been eating this way, talk to your doctor. You also may want to talk to a dietitian. This expert can help you to learn about healthy foods and plan meals.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also be given instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
  • Your doctor may prescribe a blood-thinning medicine like aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix). It is very important that you take these medicines exactly as directed in order to keep the coronary artery open and reduce your risk of a heart attack. Be safe with medicines. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

Care of the catheter site

  • For 1 or 2 days, keep a bandage over the spot where the catheter was inserted. The bandage probably will fall off in this time.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry.
  • Do not soak the catheter site until it is healed. Don't take a bath for 1 week, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Watch for bleeding from the site. A small amount of blood (up to the size of a quarter) on the bandage can be normal.
  • If you are bleeding, lie down and press on the area for 15 minutes to try to make it stop. If the bleeding does not stop, call your doctor or seek immediate medical care.

How long does a coronary angiogram take?

The test may take about 1 hour. But you need time to get ready for the test and time to recover. If you also have angioplasty and possibly a stent placed after the test, the whole procedure may take a few hours.

How do you prepare for a coronary angiogram?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your procedure. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It’s a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens after a coronary angiogram?

  • You will stay in a room for at least a few hours to make sure the catheter site starts to heal. You may have a bandage or a compression device on your groin or wrist to prevent bleeding.
  • If the catheter was placed in your groin, you will lie in bed with your leg straight for up to a few hours. If the catheter was put in your wrist, you will need to keep your arm still for at least 1 hour.
  • You may be able to go home later the same day, or you may need to stay in the hospital overnight. You will get more instructions for what to do at home.
  • Drink plenty of fluids for several hours after the test. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.

What is a coronary angiogram?

A coronary angiogram is a test to look at the large blood vessels of your heart (coronary arteries). These blood vessels feed blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your heart muscle.

After coronary angiogram: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
  • You have been diagnosed with angina, and you have symptoms that do not go away with rest or are not getting better within 5 minutes after you take a dose of nitroglycerin.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are bleeding from the area where the catheter was put in your artery.
  • You have a fast-growing, painful lump at the catheter site.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the catheter site.
    • Pus draining from the catheter site.
    • A fever.
  • Your leg or hand is painful, looks blue, or feels cold, numb, or tingly.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Coronary Angiogram: Returning Home

Why is a coronary angiogram done?

This test is done to check blood flow in your coronary arteries. It can show the size and location of narrowed or blocked sections of an artery.

How is a coronary angiogram done?

  • You may get medicine to help you relax.
  • A thin tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in your groin or wrist.
  • You will get a shot to numb the skin where the catheter goes in. You may feel pressure when the doctor moves the catheter through your blood vessel into your heart.
  • Dye is put into your coronary arteries through the catheter. Your doctor can see the dye as it moves through the arteries. This lets your doctor look for areas that are narrowed or blocked.
  • You may feel hot or flushed for several seconds when the dye is put in.
  • If you have a narrowed or blocked artery, the doctor may do an angioplasty or a coronary stent procedure. These procedures make more room for blood to flow.

What happens on the day of your coronary angiogram?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the procedure site yourself.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • After the procedure, pressure may be applied to the area where the catheter was put into your artery. This will help prevent bleeding. A small device may also be used to close the blood vessel. You may have a bandage or a compression device on the catheter site.
  • Nurses will check your heart rate and blood pressure. The nurse also will check the catheter site for bleeding.
  • If the catheter was put in your groin, you will need to lie still and keep your leg straight for up to a few hours. The nurse may put a weighted bag on your leg to help you keep it still.
  • If the catheter was put in your wrist, you may be able to sit up right away. But you will need to keep your arm still for at least one hour.
  • You may be able to go home later the same day, or you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
  • You may have a bruise and feel sore where the catheter was put in. This is normal and will go away.

Coronary Angiogram: How Others Decided

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.