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Coronary Angiography

Coronary Angiography

Coronary angiography, as a part of the group of general procedures known as cardiac catheterization, is a method that creates images using X-ray to map the heart and blood vessels. Catheter procedures can diagnose and even treat a wide array of blood vessel and heart conditions.

Coronary angiogram, (also known as coronary angiogram or CT coronary angiogram), is a highly reliable resource when it comes to diagnosing heart conditions, therefore it is the most commonly performed catheter procedure.

The physician might recommend a coronary angiography if the patient suffers from:

  • Coronary artery disease symptoms (angina or chest pains)
  • Certain pains in the jaw, neck, chest or arm that cannot be explained through other tests
  • Unstable angina
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve/blood vessel problems

Prior to any heart surgery a CT coronary angiogram is required only if there is high risk of heart failure during the surgery.

How Does Coronary Angiography Work?

The medical specialist injects a kind of dye into the patient’s blood vessels to make the heart visible for the X-ray machine. The angiograms, the set of heart images, are rapidly taken by the X-ray. The result is a detailed, well-analyzable image of the inside of the blood vessels.

Coronary angiogram offers some common risks due to the contact with the heart and blood vessels, but major complications are rare. Some potential risks are:

  • Radiation exposure from X-rays (and the reason why CT coronary angiogram is performed after non-invasive heart tests like stress tests, electrocardiogram and echocardiogram.)
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Tear in the heart or arteries
  • Allergic reactions to the dye
  • Arrhythmia
  • Injury to catheterized artery
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Before the procedure, the physician will recommend the patient:

  • Not to eat or drink after midnight the day prior to the coronary angiography.
  • Take any medication along, diabetes medication included. 

In some cases, coronary angiography procedures are performed out of emergency. Before it is started, the health care team review medical history, perform a physical exam, check vital signs, blood pressure, pulse and remove all metallic devices.