Everything you need to know about having an Angiogram done

I recently experienced severe chest pains and to my dismay, landed up in the hospital.  My cardiologist was determined to rule out any life-threatening possibilities and after several ECG’s, blood tests and scans, it was time for an angiogram.

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What is an Angiogram

A coronary angiogram is a procedure that uses X-ray imaging to see your heart’s blood vessels. The test is generally done to see if there’s a restriction in blood flow going to the heart.

What is the procedure?

An angiogram is performed by a cardiologist.  During an angiogram, a type of dye that’s visible by an X-ray machine is injected into the blood vessels of your heart. The X-ray machine rapidly takes a series of images, offering a look at your blood vessels. If necessary, your doctor can open clogged heart arteries (angioplasty) during your coronary angiogram.

Why is it done?

If you have any of the following:

  • Symptoms of coronary artery disease, such as chest pain (angina)
  • Pain in your chest, jaw, neck or arm that can’t be explained by other tests
  • New or increasing chest pain
  • A heart defect you were born with
  • Abnormal results on a non-invasive heart stress test
  • Other blood vessel problems
  • Chest injury
  • A heart valve problem that requires surgery

What you need to know?

  • Talk to your doctor about your medical history. Mention chronic conditions and pregnancy if it applies.  Also tell your doctor if you have a history of asthma, kidney or bleeding problems.
  • Complete all necessary pre-procedure tests. Your doctor will determine what testing you need to undergo before your angiogram.
  • Blood tests.  You may need to have blood taken before the angiogram.
  • Allergies.  Tell the doctor if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish. Iodine dye is usually used in this process.
  • Fasting.  You need to fast for around two hours before the procedure.
  • Duration of the procedure.  Angiography usually takes around 15 – 20 minutes as it only involves detection of any clots in the heart, which block the blood flow.
  • Anesthesia.  During the process, you will be given local anesthetic, which means that you are awake during the process (I watched what was going on, on the screens).
  • How invasive is the procedure.  A small incision is made in the side groin area.  A tube is then inserted through the groin.  At the end of the procedure a plug is inserted.  The plug will dissolve over a period of 3 months.
  • Angioplasty.  Once angiography is done and if the doctor’s decision is to undergo angioplasty, then it is advised to do it in the same sitting (at that particular moment). This is because the tube is already inserted into the heart and only a wire has to be passed through the tube for angioplasty.

     

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