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An arteriogram is a test allows the arteries to be viewed on an x-ray. A contrast dye is injected into the arteries to make them visible. The test makes images that can be used to diagnose and treat problems in the arteries.

Reasons for Test

An arteriogram is done to check the arteries for narrowing, bulging, or blockages. These could be signs of disease.

Plaque Blocking an Artery

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This test could be done to diagnose conditions such as:

  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)—blockages in the arteries in your arms or legs
  • Aneurysm—bulging of the arteries in the aorta or brain
  • Vascular malformation—problems in the structure of the arteries

Sometimes, found during the arteriogram may be treated. A clot may be dissolved or angioplasty with or without stenting may be done.

Possible Complications

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

  • Bruising or infection at the puncture site
  • Bleeding, pain, or swelling where the catheter was inserted
  • Allergic reaction to the contrast dye
  • Damage to the blood vessels during the procedure, which may require surgery
  • Heart attack, stroke, or in rare cases, death

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

At your appointment before the test, your doctor will likely:

  • Do a thorough physical examination
  • Do blood tests
  • Ask about:
    • Your medical history
    • Medication you take
    • Allergies
    • Whether you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant

In the days before your procedure, you will need to:

  • Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
  • Talk to your doctor if you take any medications, herbs, or supplements.
  • You may need to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.

Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure.


You will have an IV placed in your arm to give you medications. These medications will make you feel sleepy and comfortable.

Description of the Procedure

For this procedure, you will have a catheter placed in your groin or elbow so that the contrast dye can be injected. The skin where the catheter will be placed will be cleaned. A tiny cut will be made. A hollow needle will be inserted into the artery. A thin wire will be placed into the artery. The catheter will be threaded over the wire, and the wire will be removed.

The catheter will be used to inject a contrast dye into your artery. The dye may cause you to feel warm or flushed for a few moments. X-rays will be taken to see how the contrast dye is moving through your arteries. You will need to lie still to prevent blurry images.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1 hour

Will It Hurt?

Although the procedure is not painful, you may feel:

  • A brief sting when local anesthesia is injected
  • Pressure when catheter is inserted
  • Hot and flushed when contrast dye is injected

Post-procedure Care

After the test, the catheter will be removed. The IV will also be removed from your arm.

At the Care Center

Immediately following the procedure:

  • You will need to be monitored for about 6 hours.
  • Pressure may be applied to the insertion site for 10-20 minutes to stop the bleeding.
  • You will need to keep the arm or leg where the catheter was inserted straight. This will minimize bleeding.
  • You will be encouraged to drink a lot of fluids to flush the contrast material from your system.

At Home

When you return home, be sure to follow all of your doctor's instructions.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the injection 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


Health Canada

The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Angiogram. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at: Accessed March 1, 2018.

MR angiography (MRA). Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: Updated April 1, 2017. Accessed March 1, 2018.

Stroke diagnosis. American Stroke Association website. Available at: Updated updated 23, 2017. Accessed March 1, 2018.

Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC  Last Updated: 3/18/2013