What are the risks of an angiogram?

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Angiograms are generally safe. However, there are risks with any test. Bleeding, infection and irregular heartbeat can occur. More serious complications, such as heart attack, stroke and death can occur, but they are uncommon.

If you are allergic to iodine or x-ray dye, you should let your physician or nurse practitioner know so that medication to avoid an allergic reaction can be prescribed. The contrast dye typically used during the angiogram procedure contains iodine. Some patients have a minor reaction to the x-ray dye, such as a skin rash or itching. The chance of a life-threatening reaction to the dye is very small. X-ray dye very rarely causes serious or permanent kidney damage, especially if kidney function was normal before it is used. However, those who have weakened kidney function, due to diabetes or high blood pressure, may face a greater risk of further deterioration in kidney function. If it occurs, the deterioration is often temporary, but sometimes it may be permanent.

As a procedure that uses x-ray technology, angiograms do expose patients to ionizing radiation. Safety guidelines and equipment in place in the catheterization lab are designed to limit this exposure.