A coronary angiogram is a type of X-ray test that checks the function of the heart’s blood vessels to check if there is a restriction of blood flow to the heart. When these coronary arteries become clogged from buildup, it can reduce blood flow to the heart and leave you at risk for a heart attack. An angiogram can check whether your coronary arteries are blocked or narrowed and to what degree. Depending on the results of your angiogram, your cardiologist may recommend treatment to open your arteries, such as an angioplasty or stent, coronary bypass surgery, or medical treatment.
Your cardiologist may recommend a coronary angiogram if:
- You have chest pain or symptoms of coronary artery disease (CAD)
- You experience otherwise unexplained pain in your chest, jaw, neck, or arm
- You were born with a heart defect (congenital heart disease)
- You have a heart valve problem requiring surgery
What Happens During an Angiogram?
Angiograms are a type of cardiac catheterization procedure, meaning a small incision is made at the entry site (usually the arm or the groin), so a short plastic tube can be inserted into your artery. You will be slightly sedated to help you relax and lie on your back on an X-ray table, and X-ray cameras will move over your head and chest to take pictures from multiple angles. Electrodes placed on your chest will monitor your heart during the procedure, and your blood pressure will be monitored through a blood pressure cuff. A pulse oximeter will be used, as well, to measure your blood oxygen level.
A dye is injected into your catheter to see blood moving through your blood vessels. This makes it easy for your cardiologist to observe the blood flow and identify any blockages. Other cardiac catheterization procedures may be necessary during the same time as the angiogram, such as balloon angioplasty or a stent placement, so the blocked artery can be opened.
Once the procedure is complete, the catheter is removed, and the incision is closed. You will then be observed in a recovery area. While some patients can go home the same day, others require an overnight stay at the hospital.