What is Coronary Angiogram, Why is it Done, Its Risks & Its Report?

A coronary angiogram is usually a safe process because it is done by an expert medical team. The team consists of a radiologist, a surgeon, nurses and radio technologists. Bruising is common because of the cut made on the patient’s skin, which takes few days to heal. It should be remembered that the safety of any medical procedure also depends largely on the patient’s general health.

What is Coronary Angiogram?

A coronary angiogram is a medical test to find out if there are blockages in the patient’s arteries that restrict blood supply to the heart. Coronary angiogram is an invasive procedure that uses X-ray imaging technique to examine the blood vessels of the patient’s heart. A coronary angiogram falls under a group of procedures called cardiac catheterization. Cardiac catheterization can help diagnose as well as treat various blood vessel and heart problems. Thus, a coronary angiogram is the diagnostic procedure of cardiac catheterization and it the most common procedure of the same.

Why is a Coronary Angiogram Done?

A patient’s primary doctor may refer for a coronary angiogram if the following symptoms are noticed:

  • Chest pain, because it can be a symptom of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
  • Irregular chest pain, known as unstable angina.
  • Pain in jaw, chest, arm or neck that cannot be explained better by other tests.
  • A heart defect patient might be born with, commonly called the congenital heart disease.
  • Chest injury or blood vessel problem.
  • A heart condition that might require a surgery.

What Happens During the Coronary Angiogram Test and How Does it Feel?

A mild sedative is given to the patient just prior the coronary angiogram test to help him relax. The patient is generally kept awake, but given local anaesthesia so that the patient cannot feel when the invasion is made. The doctor numbs an area of the patient’s groin or arm with an anaesthetic to make an incision. Through this incision, a catheter is inserted into the blood vessel and guided to the heart and coronary arteries. A contrast medium commonly called the iodine dye is injected through the catheter and series of X-ray images are taken. Since this medium is radio-opaque, it becomes visible under X-rays, and thus blockages in blood vessels can easily be identified. The patient does not feel any of it because of the local anaesthesia. Nevertheless, the patient might feel slight warmth when the dye is injected. This lasts just for few seconds. The patient may be asked to lie still when the images are taken.

What are the Risks of a Coronary Angiogram?

As mentioned earlier, a coronary angiogram is generally considered to be a safe procedure. However, as with all medical techniques, there may be associated risks of this coronary angiogram procedure which should be known:

  • Bruising of the incision site is common which may take few days to resolve.
  • Patient might be allergic to the iodine dye symptoms of which include rashes and headache. It is advised that the patient must discuss any allergies that he knows of with his cardiologist.
  • There may be bleeding under the skin where the catheter was inserted. This condition is called haematoma, which generally improves within few days. But the patient should always talk to the doctor if he is concerned.
  • Blood clots can also be a risk of coronary angiogram. The patient should consult the doctor in case of noticeable abnormalities.
  • Extremely rare complications of coronary angiogram include a risk of stroke, kidney injury or heart attack.

What to Expect from a Coronary Angiogram Report?

Normal results include proper blood supply to the heart with no blockages. On contrary, the coronary angiogram report may show a presence of blockages in one or more arteries. In such cases, the patient might have to go for angioplasty to immediately improve the blood flow.

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