Benefits vs. Risks of a Catheter Angiography Test

Catheter Angiography Benefits

  • Angiography may eliminate the need for surgery. If surgery remains necessary, it can be performed more accurately.
  • Catheter angiography presents a very detailed, clear and accurate picture of the blood vessels. This is especially helpful when a surgical procedure or some percutaneous intervention is being considered.
  • By selecting the arteries through which the catheter passes, it is possible to assess vessels in several specific body sites. In fact, a smaller catheter may be passed through the larger one into a branch artery supplying a small area of tissue or a tumor; this is called superselective angiography.
  • Unlike computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MR) angiography, use of a catheter makes it possible to combine diagnosis and treatment in a single procedure. An example is finding an area of severe arterial narrowing, followed by angioplasty and placement of a stent.
  • The degree of detail displayed by catheter angiography may not be available with any other noninvasive procedures.
  • No radiation remains in a patient's body after an X-ray.
  • X-rays usually have no side effects.

Catheter Angiography Risks

  • There is always a slight chance of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation. However, the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.
  • If you have a history of allergy to x-ray contrast material, your radiologist may advise that you take special medication for 24 hours before catheter angiography to lessen the risk of allergic reaction. Another option is to undergo a different exam that does not call for contrast material injection.
  • If a large amount of X-ray contrast material leaks out under the skin where the IV is placed, skin damage can result. If you feel any pain in this area during contrast material injection, you should immediately inform the technologist.
  • Women should always inform their physician or X-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. See the Safety page ( for more information about pregnancy and X-rays.
  • Nursing mothers should wait for 24 hours after contrast material injection before resuming breast-feeding.
  • The risk of serious allergic reaction to contrast materials that contain iodine is extremely rare, and radiology departments are well-equipped to deal with them.
  • There is a small risk that blood will form a clot around the tip of the catheter, blocking the artery and making it necessary to operate to reopen the vessel.
  • If you have diabetes or kidney disease, the kidneys may be injured due to the contrast material. In most cases, the kidneys will regain their normal function within five to seven days.
  • Rarely, the catheter punctures the artery, causing internal bleeding. It also is possible that the catheter tip will separate material from the inner lining of the artery, causing a block downstream in the blood vessel.