WHAT IS AN ANGIOGRAM?
An angiogram is a study that an Interventional Radiologist performs in order to have a detailed examination of the arteries or veins. It requires the use of x-ray and the injection of contrast (dye) to outline the blood vessel that is being studied.
WHY PERFORM AN ANGIOGRAM?
Blood vessels carry blood throughout the body, to and from the heart. An angiogram is normally performed in order to diagnose a disorder of the blood vessels (arteries or veins).
Blood flow may be impaired throughout the body due to narrowings (stenosis) and blockages (occlusion) in the blood stream. The blood vessel may also demonstrate abnormal bulging or weakness (aneurysm). An angiogram is utilised to diagnose these conditions. Angiograms also clearly demonstrate the rate and direction of flow in these blood vessels.
These conditions can then be treated minimally invasively, using the access from inside the blood vessel.
HOW IS AN ANGIOGRAM PERFORMED?
After administration of local anaesthetic, access to the vascular system is obtained by a puncture of a superficial artery or vein (normally at the top of the leg or the arm above the elbow). The blood vessels are inter-connected like the branches of a tree. A thin catheter is then navigated through the vascular tree to the blood vessel in question and contrast is injected and an X-ray picture is taken. The catheter is useful for administering contrast to the appropriate diseased blood vessel. As the catheter lies within the diseased blood vessel, it can also be used for treatment.
If a blood vessel is narrowed or blocked, it may be opened with angioplasty (dilating with a temporary balloon), stenting (dilating the artery with a permanent metallic scaffold) or thrombolysis (dissolving blood clots).
If the blood vessel requires occlusion or has an aneurysm, this may be treated with embolisation (administration of a physical substance or chemical through the catheter in order block the blood flow).
After an angiogram, the blood vessel is sealed with either manual pressure, or the use of a closure device such as a suture or plug.