What to Expect During a Catheter Angiography

This examination is usually done on an outpatient basis.

A nurse or technologist will insert an I.V. into a small vein in your hand or arm.

A small amount of blood will be drawn to make sure that your kidneys are working and that your blood will clot normally. A small dose of sedative may be given through the IV to lessen your anxiety during the procedure.

The area of the groin or arm where the catheter will be inserted is shaved, cleaned, and numbed with local anesthetic. The radiologist will make a small incision (usually a few millimeters) in the skin where the catheter can be inserted into an artery. The catheter is then guided through the arteries to the area to be examined. After the contrast material is injected through the catheter and reaches the blood vessels being studied, several sets of X-rays are taken. Then the catheter is removed and the incision site is closed by placing pressure on the area for approximately 10 to 20 minutes (or by using a special closure device).

When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.

Your I.V. will be removed.

Time Consideration

A catheter angiogram can be completed in less than an hour, but may last up to several hours.

Other Factors

Prior to beginning the procedure, you will be asked to empty your bladder.

You will feel a slight prick when the needle is inserted into your vein for the I.V.

Injecting a local anesthetic at the site where the catheter is inserted may sting briefly, but it will make the rest of the procedure pain-free.

You will not feel the catheter in your artery, but when the contrast material is injected, you may have a feeling of warmth or a slight burning sensation. The most difficult part of the procedure may be lying flat for several hours. During this time, you should inform the nurse if you notice any bleeding, swelling or pain at the site where the catheter entered the skin.

You may resume your normal diet immediately after the exam. You will be able to resume all other normal activities 8 to 12 hours after the exam.

Limitations of Catheter Angiography

Patients with impaired kidney function, especially those who also have diabetes, are not good candidates for this procedure.

Patients who have previously had allergic reactions to X-ray contrast materials are at risk of having a reaction to contrast materials that contain iodine. If angiography is essential, a variety of methods is used to decrease risk of allergy:

  • You may be given one or more doses of a steroid medication ahead of time.
  • Contrast material without iodine may be used instead of standard X-ray contrast.

Catheter angiography should be done very cautiously—if at all—in patients who have a tendency to bleed.