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.
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
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.
An average Friday in my life recently went like this …
But first … turn back the clock two days prior. My weekly dance fitness workout had me gasping for breath while I clenched my chest. No idea why I was experiencing such pain but it was very out of the ordinary and needless to say that workout pretty much sucked ass. I went home, had dinner and attempted a bit of blogging but the pain was rather intense so I called it a night.
I woke up the next morning in pain, but it was more intense. Off to work I went but scheduled an appointment with my GP. Big mistake on my part because I should have just went straight to the ER. He drew bloods and I returned to work eagerly awaiting my results. Doc was checking for a possible heart attack or blood clots.
I only got the results on Friday morning and everything was clear. So why the hell was I in such excruciating pain. I wasn’t convinced or happy with the diagnosis so I went for a second opinion. Listening to my body and all that. The girl is learning, so lets take a moment to celebrate the small victories.
More blood tests ensued. I was put on a treadmill to try to induce the chest pains. Yeah, you heard right. Like I wasn’t in enough pain, they wanted to trigger the chest pains further. Wait for it … this is actually called a STRESS ECG. I had arrived in a mini dress and cowboy boots, definitely not dressed for the occasion if you ask me. So dressed in opaque stockings, cowboy boots, bra-less and in a hospital gown I hopped onto the treadmill. Lemme tell you what, the quickest way to lose your dignity is to get sick and have to undergo medical procedures. There I was walking on a treadmill with my saggy boobs exposed and wires attached to me. Thank the good Lord I only survived two minutes on the treadmill before the pain pushed up from my chest into my throat. The thought of my boobs flopping around uncontrollably was just too much to bare.
Cheers goodbye – it was a hospital admission for me, so a cardiologist could have a bash. He wasted no time and ran more blood tests and an ECG. Doctor arrived with this Rolls Royce of a computer system that checks out your heart. OMG, the sonar of my heart was epic. I never seen my heart beat like that. It was strong, powerful and honestly …… beautiful to watch. I got a bit emo about it. Probably because we take the non-stop functioning of our hearts for granted. Then Doc did a sonar on my neck to check for fatty deposits which is an indication of high cholesterol. Great news, that was all clear.
Doc mentioned that my symptoms were significant and he was concerned. So he wanted to check for possible clots on my lungs. Quick wheelchair ride to have my lunch lungs looked at (I’m starving as I write this while I wait for the food trolley to arrive). Upon arrival I had to strip again and hop onto the bed so that they could prep me. I had to listen to the nurses standing on either side discussing how to get the needle into my arm. At that point I had lost all confidence in them and wished they would just shut the hell up and pretend they knew what they were doing. Surprise, surprise … the needle was in but it was a FUCK UP. Let’s try your other arm they said. More discussions took place and at that point I asked for the doc. Well, Dr Cool walks in, takes my arm, jabs the needle in and Bob’s your Uncle. It was like a military sneak attack with no warning but the needle was in. My body didn’t agree with the contrast and I ended up vomiting just as we finished. Not glamorous at all but hey that’s life.
Now before I continue, here’s a serious question for you? What is it about hospitals and medication, that turns a normally calm and poised woman into a bloody fart factory. Lemme just say I was ever so grateful to have a room all to myself.
Anyways, all my results were back and my results were amazing. I’m a healthy, fit woman in a body that refuses to fail me. My lifestyle change has paid off and all these tests confirmed that, but I still had pain and no answers.
So it was time for an angiogram. They basically make an incision in your groin area then work through there to check on your heart. Firstly, the nurse asked if I had shaved my GROIN SIDES. WTF!!! What is a groin side?? I still don’t know. Thank goodness for neatly maintained pubes because that archaic shaver would have been a disaster. I was awake for the procedure and watched the screens as the Cardiologists worked from the tiny opening on my “groin side” all the way up to my heart. It looked like a bloody alien moving in my body. Very freaking weird if you ask me. I could see them inject the dye into my body and how it lit up my arteries. I even felt it touch my heart (like literally). It was truly amazing to watch and experience. The Cardiologists said my heart was beautiful and perfect. I’m gonna take that literally and figuratively. My arteries are fantastic with perfect flow and no signs of blockages.
After a battery of tests, all the dangerous possibilities have been ruled out. Another stress test will take place in a week. Let’s just mess with me before another weekend and induce some pain in my life, why don’t we. The likelihood that its hernia or stress is becoming more and more evident. In the mean time NO EXERCISE and NO ALCOHOL.
How ironic that I was discharged on World Health Day with a clean bill of health (but no explanantion to my pain). Fun times ahead I tell you!