What is cerebral angiography?

A cerebral angiogram is the picture of blood vessels in your brain required for surgery following a stroke, says Muhammad Taqi, MD, from Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center. Learn when it's required and how it's done in this video.
Cerebral angiography is an invasive procedure that involves injecting a dye or contrast medium into an artery and taking x-rays to study blood flow. Cerebral angiography is similar to heart angiography except that it studies blood flow to the brain instead of the heart. The doctor inserts a thin plastic tube, called a catheter, through a small surgical puncture into a blood vessel near the groin, and then guides it through the circulatory system to an artery feeding the brain. Next, the doctor injects dye through the catheter into the blood vessels and takes detailed x-rays of blood flowing through the brain.

This test can detect many of the abnormalities that cause a stroke, including the narrowing or blockage of a blood vessel, an embolus, atherosclerosis, an arteriovenous malformation, or an aneurysm.

Nevertheless, the valuable information that angiography can provide must be weighed against its potentially harmful effects. If the catheter dislodges a blood clot or fragments of cholesterol, it can provoke an embolic stroke. The risk increases with a person's age. This test is usually done only when the doctors haven't been able to diagnose the cause of an ischemic stroke with noninvasive imaging and when treatment depends on knowing the cause. It is also used to identify the anatomy and location of an aneurysm that has caused a subarachnoid hemorrhage, or an arteriovenous malformation that has caused an intracerebral hemorrhage.
Cerebral angiography is a test that is often used to diagnose carotid artery disease, or narrowing of the carotid arteries. For this test, your physician will administer contrast dye, usually through a catheter inserted into a vein in the leg. X rays capture images of the dye traveling through the carotid arteries and indicate places where narrowing may be occurring. This test can be performed by any number of trained physicians, including interventional cardiologists, interventional radiologists, and vascular surgeons.

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