A coronary angiogram or angiography is a test to see if the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart, are flowing freely. If they become narrowed you may complain of chest pain (angina), or, if suddenly blocked, a heart attack. Your angiogram (the pictures) show the doctor how many narrowing’s are present in the vessels, where they are and how tight they are.
How is the test done?
Most people are brought into hospital on the day of the procedure. You will be asked to fast for some hours before the test. You may be given some medication just before the procedure to help you relax. An area of skin in the right groin or the wrist will be cleaned and shaved if necessary. This is to allow access to the arteries through which the doctor will access your heart arteries.
A local anesthetic is given to numb the skin over this blood vessel. After that you will feel very little discomfort. A tube is placed into the blood vessel of the groin or arm. It carries the dye directly to the blood vessels of your heart, which can now be easily seen on the X-ray screen. You can choose to look at the pictures if you wish. At different times you may be asked to take a deep breath and to hold it for a few seconds while the camera moves around you. At the end of the test it’s quite normal to feel warm and flushed when some dye is pumped in by machine. This lasts about 5 or 10 seconds and may be associated with the feeling that you are emptying your bladder (which you are not!). After the test, the tube in your groin, wrist or elbow will be removed and pressure is placed on the site for 10-15 minutes by hand or a pressure device or sometimes a small collagen plug is inserted.
When you get back to the day ward you will be asked to rest to allow the wound to heal up. You will usually be discharged on the same day unless there were any complications. If you require a stent then you may be asked to stay in hospital overnight. Is there anything I should look out for when I get home? It is common to notice some bruising at the entry site. If bleeding occurs you should apply pressure and if it doesn’t stop contact the hospital. If a lump appears at the site of the angiogram then you should also contact the hospital. It is possible, although not common; to develop a skin infection at the incision site this should also be reviewed by your hospital doctor.
At home, you should be able to get up and about the following day and even return to work or do light duties. Any heavy lifting however should be avoided as this puts pressure on the wound in the artery in your groin or arm. You can drive yourself the day following a coronary angiogram but you must not drive yourself home from hospital on the day of the test.