What is Angiography?

Angiography is a special x-ray exam of your blood vessels, allowing your doctor to see how blood circulates through your body. This insight leads to early detection and diagnosis of various conditions, including heart and lung disease, stroke, and kidney disease

During the procedure, a doctor will make a small incision, usually at the very top of your leg, and insert a small tube, or catheter. This tube is threaded up through an artery to the area of your body to be evaluated. A radiologist then releases a contrast medium, or dye, into the tube. The dye travels through your blood vessels, and an x-ray camera in the room captures images, called angiograms, of the dye's path. These images show when the dye flows smoothly and when it gets held up, indicating a blockage in the blood vessel.

Another, less invasive form of this procedure is called DSA, or digital subtraction angiography. This exam calls for a series of x-rays before any contrast medium is injected. Then, you receive several injections with small amounts of contrast medium as the x-ray machine continuously takes pictures. The computer then compares the images with and without contrast medium.

Why is Angiography Done?

Angiography is very accurate and provides important information to your doctor not available through other methods.

Angiography is most effective in diagnosing conditions in the following areas:

  • Heart – detecting defects, narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, and overall health
  • Brain – detecting aneurysms, tumors, or narrowing or blockage of blood vessels
  • Lungs – evaluating blockage of blood vessels and assessing lung circulation prior to surgery
  • Kidneys – detecting tumors, cysts, clots, inflammation, narrowing of blood vessels, and other problems
  • Abdomen – detecting tumors, blood vessel damage, and locating the source of internal bleeding
  • Arms and legs – checking blood flow after surgery, as well as detecting and evaluating blood clots or narrowing of the blood vessels
  • Lymph nodes – diagnosing cancer or evaluating the results of cancer treatments
  • Eyes – detecting diseases of the retina and diagnosing eye problems in diabetic patients


It is important to note that while angiography is a very accurate, beneficial exam and that complications are rare, it does involve possible risks, including an allergic reaction to the contrast medium, infection at the injection site, and damage to the blood vessels that can lead to heart attack, stroke, or other problems. It is important to discuss these risks with your doctor before your exam.

Before the Procedure

Before your angiography, your doctor may schedule a pre-test appointment with you to perform a physical exam and do some blood tests. Be sure to take this opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the procedure.

You may be asked to avoid eating or drinking anything for a certain period of time before the angiography. Please arrange for someone to drive you home after your procedure.

If you have questions about a health condition that could affect your exam, or if you think you might be pregnant, please talk to a radiologist.

During the Procedure

When you arrive on the day of your appointment, you will be asked to change into a gown. Be sure to remove jewelry, watches, and hairpins. You may be allowed to wear your glasses or hearing aid, but please ask your radiology technologist if these will interfere with the procedure.

Your technologist will help you onto a scanning table. You will receive an IV in your arm and may receive light sedation or other medication. The top of your leg, or another insertion site, will be shaved and cleaned. Local anesthesia will be applied to the injection site, and the catheter will be gently inserted and guided into the blood vessel. Most patients feel only pressure at this point, but no pain. You will not feel the catheter inside your body. 

Next, the contrast medium, or dye, will be injected into the catheter. You may feel a warm sensation or some mild discomfort, but it will pass quickly.

During the procedure, it is important that you lie still. The x-ray camera overhead will make snapshots of the dye moving through your blood vessels. After all the x-rays are taken, the catheter will be removed. Pressure will be applied to the insertion site for several minutes to prevent bleeding.

After the Procedure

When the procedure is completed, you will rest in bed for several hours. Some people are able to return home the same day, but some remain overnight to ensure proper healing of the insertion site. Your doctor will ask you to lie still and avoid moving the leg or arm where the catheter was inserted. A nurse will check your blood pressure and pulse throughout the day.

If necessary, you may take a pain reliever. You will be encouraged to drink plenty of water to help your body flush the contrast medium.

Most people can resume normal activity the following day, but it is important to take it easy and give your body some time to heal. Avoid driving, using alcohol, or participating in strenuous activities the first 24 hours after the procedure. Refrain from lifting or straining for at least a week, and check your insertion site for any problems, such as an increase in pain or swelling, redness, drainage, or numbness and tingling in your arm or leg. 

The radiologist will review your images and send a report to your doctor, who will notify you of any findings.

Request an Appointment

To speak to an Imaging Services representative or to schedule an appointment with Imaging Services, please call 214-645-XRAY (9729).