What is an angiogram?

Dr. John C. Lipman, MD
Vascular & Interventional Radiologist

An angiogram is an x-ray study of the arteries or veins in a specific area of the body that the interventional physician is interested in studying. If arteries are to be studied, this is called an arteriogram, and it veins are to be studied, it's called a venogram.

Coronary artery disease—also called atherosclerosis — is the blockage by fatty deposits of the blood vessels that supply the heart. Undetected, these blockages can be serious health threats, causing heart attack and even sudden death.The gold standard for the diagnosis of coronary artery disease is the coronary angiogram, a term often used synonymously with cardiac catheterization. During this procedure, a tube or catheter is inserted into a blood vessel (usually in the groin), and is guided to the heart with the assistance of x-ray imaging. Dye is then introduced into the coronary arteries to detect blockages, and digital cine films (angiograms) are recorded and analyzed.

An angiogram is an x-ray exam used to view the body's blood vessels (arteries and veins). During an angiogram, a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into one of your arteries through a very small incision in the skin, about the size of a pencil tip. Contrast (x-ray dye) is then injected into the artery while x-rays are taken of the area. The contrast makes the artery visible on the x-rays. The angiogram helps your doctor plan the best treatment for you. (When arteries are studied, the test is also called an arteriogram. If a vein is studied, this test is called a venogram.)

An angiogram is performed in a cardiac catheterization lab. During the test a long, thin tube called a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel and guided into the heart. Dye is injected through the catheter and x-rays track the flow of blood to your heart muscle. This test can also diagnose coronary artery disease, which is a cause of heart failure.

Dr. George C. Clinard, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Angiography is an x-ray test used to detect diseases of the blood vessels, such as weakening of the vessel walls and the narrowing or blocking of vessels. The x-ray is taken after the vessels have been injected with a substance that allows them to be seen on film.

Dr. John J. Marshall, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

If your doctor strongly suspects that you have heart disease, you may go to the cardiac catheterization laboratory (or “cath lab”) for a test called coronary angiography, or an angiogram. In this test, a cardiologist threads a slender, flexible tube called a catheter into the arteries of your heart and injects x-ray contrast. The contrast allows the interventional cardiologist to see inside your arteries, find any plaques that may be narrowing or blocking your arteries, measure how severe they are and determine what kind of treatment is needed. If you need the artery to be treated with interventional procedures such as angioplasty and stenting, which reopen a blocked artery, those procedures may be performed immediately after coronary angiography in certain circumstances.

A cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic procedure that provides detailed x-ray pictures of the heart and its blood vessels. The pictures taken with contrast dye during this procedure are called angiograms. Interventional procedures to correct problems that are found can be performed at the same time. A cardiac catheterization is performed by a specially trained cardiologist, called an interventional cardiologist.

A diagnostic cardiac catheterization test, also called an angiogram, is performed when it is thought that the patient has significant narrowing in the coronary arteries or abnormalities of the heart valves or muscles are suspected. During the test, a thin catheter is inserted into the artery or vein of an arm or leg and guided to the heart, contrast dye is injected, and x-rays provide contrast pictures for review of the arteries, heart chambers, and valves and to show the degree of any blockage. The test, which also measures pressure in the heart, takes about 30 minutes but if angioplasty (a procedure in which the artery is stretched to increase blood flow to the heart) or the placement of a stent (a stainless mesh tube that provides support to the artery) is deemed necessary, it will take longer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.