After you have been admitted to hospital you will have a cannula (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, in a room which looks rather like an operating theatre, and the staff wear sterile surgical outfits.
During the procedure you will lie on an examination table under an X-ray machine. The nurses will cover your body, arms and legs with sterile drapes, but your face will not be covered. You may be given a small dose of intravenous sedation, but usually people remain awake throughout the procedure. The test is not painful, but sometimes, when the contrast is injected, one can feel a “hot flush”. The staff will warn you if this might happen.
After the procedure has been completed you will be 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 on the same day.
Some medications (especially certain blood thinners and diabetes treatments) should be withheld before an angiogram. Make sure the cardiologist knows all the medications that you are taking, and you will be advised if they should be withheld prior to the test. Aspirin will usually be continued uninterrupted.
You should fast for 4 hours before the procedure. Even while you are fasting, you should still take your normal medications with a glass of water (except those that the cardiologist has asked you to withhold).
Make sure that you have arrangements for transport home after the test. Because you may be given some sedation during the test, and to avoid complications at the groin access site, you may not drive yourself home.
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 X-ray contrast. This is quite unusual during coronary angiography, but if you have had previous allergic reactions during X-ray scans, 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 will only be performed if the potential benefits of performing the procedure have been balanced against the small risk of serious complications.
After the test
Let your cardiologist know immediately if any problems arise following your discharge home by calling our office on 07 5598 0077, or the emergency department at John Flynn Hospital on 07 5598 9001 if after-hours. Mild bruising or discomfort in the groin is not uncommon, and rarely of any concern. If, however, you do have symptoms which are worrying, present to your nearest Accident and Emergency Department for assessment.