Coronary Angiogram

A coronary angiogram looks closely at your coronary arteries to see if they are narrowed or blocked using X-ray dye.

What is a coronary angiogram?

A coronary angiogram is a procedure which looks closely at your coronary arteries to see if they are narrowed or blocked. It uses a special type of X-ray dye.

Why do I need a coronary angiogram?

Your doctor may recommend a coronary angiogram if you are suspected to have coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to your heart are built up with a fatty substance called plaque. This build up causes your arteries to become narrow and hard, meaning less blood is able to reach your heart. A coronary angiogram can also be used to look for other heart problems, such as heart valve disease.

What are the risks of a coronary angiogram?

While serious risks are unlikely, there are some risks associated with a coronary angiogram procedure. 

The most common risk for this procedure is bruising or swelling at the puncture site.

Uncommon risks can include: 

  • Allergic reaction to the X-ray dye and medications given during the procedure

Very Rare risks include: 

  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Bleeding 
  • Abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmias
  • Injury to the artery
  • Reduced kidney function
  • Emergency heart surgery
  • Death from this procedure is extremely rare

Your doctor will explain all of the risks in detail before you agree to the surgery – and you’re also encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns with your medical team. Your doctor will ask you to sign a consent form to agree to have the procedure.

How do I prepare for a coronary angiogram?

You will prepare for your coronary angiogram by:

  • Having a blood test – in the four weeks before your procedure
  • Asking your doctor about taking your usual medications – especially if you take medication for diabetes or blood thinning medications. Patients on metformin should withhold the medication 24-48 hours prior to the procedure 
  • Not eating – for at least four hours before your procedure begins
  • Not drinking any clear fluids for two hours beforehand – clear fluids and drinks are ones you can see through, such as water and tea without milk
  • Removing any jewellery – and putting on a hospital gown

What happens during a coronary angiogram?

Your coronary angiogram takes place in a hospital room that looks like an operating theatre. You’ll be taken to the procedure room and be asked to lie on a narrow table. You will be awake throughout the procedure, and before it begins your doctor may offer you sedation to help you relax. During the procedure your doctor will:

  • Give you a local anaesthetic – to numb your wrist or groin
  • Gently insert a catheter into an artery in your wrist or groin – and move it inside the artery up to your heart.
  • Inject a dye into your arteries – you may feel a warm flush when this happens
  • Take x-rays as the dye moves through the blood vessels – to clearly see where the arteries are narrowed or blocked
  • Remove the catheter – and apply pressure to the site where it was inserted

You will be connected to a heart monitor for the duration of your coronary angiogram. The procedure takes less than hour.

What happens after a coronary angiogram?

Once your coronary angiogram is finished, your nurse will apply pressure to the area, followed by a dressing. You will be moved to the recovery area or to the ward to rest. You may be tender or sore and have some bruising at the site of the procedure – this should go away after two weeks. Based on what the coronary angiogram reveals, your doctor will decide if you need to stay overnight in the hospital and the best treatment for you.

You will need to organise for someone to pick you up you from the hospital afterwards and take you home. Once you return home, it is important to follow your doctor’s recommended lifestyle changes, and to visit your doctor or call an ambulance if you experience any serious symptoms.

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