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(Catheter Angiography; Arteriography; Angiogram)


Definition    TOP

An angiography is an image test of blood vessels. A special dye is used with the test. It will make the blood vessels easier to see.


Nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Reasons for Procedure    TOP

Angiography may be done to do one or more of the following:

  • Find blood vessels that are narrowed, enlarged, or blocked
  • Look for blood that may be leaking from the blood vessels to another part of the body
  • Fix blocked blood vessels

Possible Complications    TOP

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

  • Allergic reaction to the chemical used
  • Abnormal heartbeats, called arrhythmias
  • Bleeding where the catheter was placed
  • Damage to blood vessels—this can lead to organ and tissue damage
  • Kidney damage from contrast matter
  • Infection
  • Stroke

The risk of complications is higher for people with:

  • Kidney problems
  • Diabetes
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Allergies—mainly to contrast matter, iodine, or medicine

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Procedure

The doctor will review previous tests. You may also be asked to stop certain medicine.

Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.


Medicine will be used to numb the site of injection. A sedative may also be given to help you relax.

Description of the Procedure    TOP

An area on the groin, upper thigh, arm, or neck will be cleaned. A small cut will be made. A catheter (tube) will be passed through the cut into a blood vessel. The tube will be passed through blood vessels to the problem area. A dye will be passed through the tube. It will highlight the blood vessels on a screen in the room. When the test is complete the tube will be removed. Pressure will be applied to the insertion site for 10 minutes. A bandage will be placed over the area.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

Less than an hour. It can take many hours if the doctor decides to fix any problems at the same time.

How Much Will It Hurt?    TOP

It is not painful, but you may feel:

  • A brief sting when the numbing medicine is injected
  • Pressure when the tube is inserted
  • Hot and flushed when the dye is added

Post-procedure Care    TOP

At the Care Center

You will need to lie flat for some time. It will help to stop bleeding at the insertion site. The length of stay depends on why the test was needed and overall health.

At Home

Most can return to normal activity within a couple of days.

Results    TOP

The doctor will talk to you about the results. You may need further testing or treatment.


Call Your Doctor    TOP

Call your doctor if any of these happen:

  • Signs of infection such as fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the site
  • Extreme sweating, nausea, or vomiting
  • Extreme pain
  • Extreme chest pain
  • Leg or arm feels cold, turns white or blue, or becomes numb or tingly
  • Trouble breathing
  • Problems speaking or seeing
  • Weakness in the face

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: https://vascular.org/patient-resources/vascular-tests/angiogram. Accessed March 21, 2018.

Catheter angiography. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=angiocath. Updated January 20, 2018. Accessed March 21, 2018.

Coronary angiography. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coronary-angiography. Accessed March 21, 2018.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 3/21/2019

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