What is a coronary angiogram?

A coronary angiogram is a procedure which looks closely at your coronary arteries to find out, any blocked arteries. It uses a special type of X-ray using contrast.

Why do you 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 muscle are filled with a fatty substance called plaque. This build up causes your arteries to become narrow and hard, meaning less blood reaches your heart. A coronary angiogram can also be used to find out reasons for heart problems, such as heart valve diseases, heart failure and cardiomyopathy.

What are the risks involved in coronary angiogram?

While serious risks are less likely, 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- 1 in 1000 patients:

  • Allergic reaction to the X-ray dye and medications given during the procedure
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmias
  • Injury to the artery
  • Reduced kidney function
  • Emergency heart surgery
  • Death from this procedure is 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.

Preparations:

You will prepare for your coronary angiogram by:

  • Having a blood test – within the four weeks before your procedure, which includes full blood count and renal function (Urea & Creatinine)
  • Asking about taking your usual medications – especially if you take medication for diabetes or blood thinning medications. If you take SGLT2 medicine for diabetes, you will need to stop taking them at least 3 days before your surgery.
  • Not eating – for at least six 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 30 minutes.

What happens after a coronary angiogram?

Once your coronary angiogram is finished, your nurse will apply pressure to the access site, 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 few days. 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 changes in your lifestyle, and to visit your doctor or call an ambulance if you experience any serious symptoms.