An angiogram uses X-rays and a special dye (contrast) to take pictures of the arteries in your brain, heart, and kidneys.

The dye is injected into a small tube or catheter into an artery in your groin or (sometimes) your arm. The small tube is inserted after an injection of local anaesthetic around the artery. Sometimes intravenous sedation is given. After the dye is injected, pictures are taken using an X-ray machine.

Benefits associated with an angiogram

  • Used for diagnosis to show very detailed pictures of the arteries inside your brain, heart and kidneys
  • Can be used to show blockages in your arteries
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Risks associated with an angiogram

Your doctor knows the risks of having an angiogram. Your doctor will consider the risks before recommending you to have an angiogram. Possible risks are:

  • Often not recommended in early pregnancy
  • Small amount of radiation. The amount of radiation you are exposed to depends on the number of pictures taken and the part of the body being examined
  • Extremely small chance you could develop cancer in the long term from the radiation
  • If you are taking some medications. These include anticoagulants (blood thinning medications) and diabetic medication
  • If you have a known kidney disease
  • An allergic reaction from the dye. You may have nausea, sneezing, vomiting, itching, hives and dizziness. More serious reactions can occur, but are very rare
  • Infection, bleeding or injury at the site of an injection
  • Blood clot in the wall of the blood vessel or a weakness of the blood vessel wall that may need treatment

If you are at all concerned regarding the risks, talk to your doctor before the examination.

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Complications of Angiography

Most people who have an angiogram won't experience any complications, but there is a small chance of minor or serious complications occurring.

Possible minor complications include:

  • an infection where the cut was made, causing the area to become red, hot, swollen and painful – this may need to be treated with antibiotics
  • a mild reaction to the dye, such as an itchy rash – this can usually be controlled with medication

Possible serious complications include:

  • kidney damage due to the dye – this is usually temporary
  • a heart attack or stroke
  • damage to a blood vessel, causing internal bleeding – further surgery may be needed to repair the damage 
  • a serious allergic reaction to the dye (anaphylaxis), causing dizziness, breathing difficulties or loss of consciousness

These serious complications are very rare. For example, an estimated 1 in 1,000 people will have a stroke, and approximately 1 in 50,000 to 150,000 people will develop anaphylaxis.


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