What is Coronary Angiography?
- A coronary angiogram or “cardiac catheter” is a test which allows us to take xray pictures of the arteries in your heart. It is the best way we have to see if there are any narrowings or blockages within the arteries in the heart (the coronary arteries). A cardiologist will perform the angiogram, assisted by specialised nurses. The test involves passing a long thin plastic tube (a catheter) into one of your arteries (either in the groin or in the wrist). This is done under local anaesthetic. You will need to come into hospital for the day for this procedure.
What to expect?
- After you have been admitted to hospital you will have a canula (needle) placed in a vein in your hand or arm. A nurse will shave your wrist or groin.
- You will then be taken to the Cardiac Catheter Laboratory, where the test is performed. This room looks rather like an operating theatre, and the staff wear theatre outfits.
- During the procedure you will lie on an examination table under an xray machine. The nurses will cover your body, arms and legs with sterile drapes, but your face will not be covered. You will be given a small dose of intravenous sedation, but usually people remain awake throughout the procedure. The test is not painful. Sometimes, when the contrast (“dye”) is injected, people do feel a “hot flush”. The staff will warn you if this might happen.
- After the procedure has been completed you will transferred to the hospital ward, where you will rest in bed for about 4 hours. This is done to reduce the risk of bleeding or bruising at the groin or wrist. The cardiologist will come and see you while you are in the ward, to let you know the results of the test.
- Most people are discharged home in the late afternoon following their morning test. Because you have received sedation, you should not drive yourself that day.
Are There Any Risks Involved?
- The most common complication of the procedure is bruising or bleeding at the groin or wrist, after the procedure has been completed. This is not common, and rarely serious.
- Occasionally people do have allergic reactions to xray contrast or dye. This is quite unusual during coronary angiography, but if you have had previous allergic reactions with xrays, please let the cardiologist know before the test! Serious complications are very rare, but have occasionally been reported. These include heart attacks, stroke and even death. Complications such as these have usually been reported in people who were already very ill, prior to their angiogram. The risk of a serious complication is significantly less than 1 in 1000. Nevertheless, angiograms should only be done if there is a very good reason for the procedure, and if the possible benefits of performing the procedure well outweigh the small risk of serious complications.
Is Preparation For The Test Required?
- Some medications (particularly some blood thinners, and some treatment for diabetes) should be withheld before an angiogram. Make sure the cardiologist knows all of the medications that you are taking, and ask him if they should be continued up until the time of the test. We usually continue aspirin.
- You should fast for 4 hours before the procedure. Even if you are fasting however, you should still take your normal medications with a glass of water (unless the cardiologist specifically asks you not to do so).
- Make sure that you have arrangements for transport home after the test. Because you will be given some sedation during the test, you should not drive yourself.
After the test
- Let your cardiologist know immediately if any problems arise after your discharge home by calling our office. Mild bruising or discomfort in the groin is not uncommon, and rarely of any concern. If however you do have symptoms which are worrying, please phone our consulting rooms on 07 55980077, or (after hours) present to your nearest Accident and Emergency Department for assessment.