Coronary Angiography

Why am I having an angiogram?

An angiogram is performed to examine the heart (coronary) arteries.  You may be having an angiogram because you have suffered from chest pain or shortness of breath or because you have had a heart attack.  An angiogram is also needed if you have been recommended to have heart surgery, such as valve replacement.

What is an angiogram?

An angiogram (or cardiac catheterisation) is a special x-ray.  A catheter (long thin tube) is inserted into the femoral artery in the groin and directed up the aorta (the largest blood vessel at the back of the body) to the heart.  You will not be able to feel the catheter moving inside your body.  Dye (an agent that shows up on x-rays) is injected into the coronary arteries and an x-ray film is taken.  The dye is removed from the body by the kidneys over a few hours after the angiogram.  (The dye has no colour so your urine won’t change).

Admission to hospital

You will be admitted to hospital either the night before or on the morning of your procedure.  My secretary  will give you the details if you are to be admitted to a private hospital.  The booking officer of the Royal Melbourne Hospital will send you the details if you are to be admitted to RMH.  If you take WARFARIN (Coumadin or Marevan), a drug to stop blood clotting, you must notify my secretary or me as soon as possible.  You will need to stop Warfarin several days before the procedure and resume it afterwards.  We will tell you the exact details.  You can continue to take ASPIRIN (incl

Before the angiogram

You should not eat or drink for 4 hours before the procedure but you should take all your usual medicines at the usual times with a small glass of water.  A blood test will be taken to check your blood count (haemoglobin), potassium level and kidney function.  An intravenous cannula will be inserted in a vein in your arm.

The Angiography

The angiogram will be performed in the Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory (the Cath Lab) which is very similar to an operating theatre but with a special x-ray machine.  The staff in the Cath Lab are nurses and technologists.  There may also be a doctor who will assist me with the procedure.  If you have any questions or are concerned in any way please ask me or one of the staff.

After the angiogram

In some patients a special plug (an “Angioseal”) is inserted at the end of the angiogram to seal the artery and stop bleeding.  If this is used you will be able to sit up immediately and get out of bed in two hours. If this cannot be used you will be moved out of the Cath Lab and the sheath will be removed from your groin.  Pressure will be applied for 10-15 minutes to stop bleeding from the artery or vein.  After you return to the ward, you should stay lying flat for 4 hours and in bed for 6 hours. 

Possible Problems

It is common to get a small bruise at the groin.  Sometimes the bruise is quite extensive but just in the skin without any swelling.  This will fade over a few weeks.  However, you may get significant bleeding, bruising or swelling at the groin site.  Let me know if this occurs.  Occasionally (about 1% of angiograms), a large bruise (haematoma) develops.  Occasionally, surgery is required to repair the artery in the groin.

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