What are the risks of an angiogram?

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

Angiograms are very safe. There are very rare risks in undergoing an angiogram. In rare instances, a patient will have an allergic reaction to the contrast (dye) that is used during the angiogram. This contrast is similar to contrast that is used intravenously during a CT scan and patients who are scheduled to undergo an angiogram should be asked about whether they have had any contrast in the past and whether they had any reaction to it. If so, and if the angiogram is medically necessary, the patient will be premedicated with oral steroids and histamine blockers prior to the angiogram. There is also a very rare risk of bleeding at the skin entrance site for the angiogram which is almost always handled very easily with some manual compression of the site. Lastly, angiograms are performed under x-ray and typical angiograms have an acceptably low radiation exposure to the patient. Because of this, all angiograms should be medically necessary and the patient should seek out the most experienced physician to perform their angiogram.

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.

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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.