What is it?

An angiogram is an X-ray procedure that can be both diagnostic and therapeutic.  It is considered the gold standard for evaluating blockages in the arterial system. An angiogram detects blockages using X-rays taken during the injection of a contrast agent (iodine dye). The procedure provides information that helps your vascular surgeon determine your best treatment options. Angiograms are typically performed while you are sedated. The procedure may last 15-20 minutes or up to several hours, depending on how difficult the test is and how much treatment is given.

What to expect during the test?

•  You will wear your street clothes, and be asked to lie on a stretcher. 

•  Ultrasound gel, usually warmed for your comfort, will be placed on either side of your neck. 

•  Through the gel, the technician will apply to your neck a small hand-held device that emits sound waves. 

•  When the test is completed, the technician will remove excess gel from your neck.

•  The gel is water-soluble and will not stain your skin or clothes.

Are there any risks or side effects?

All invasive procedures can have complications. While the risk of an angiogram is low it is not zero. The most common complications are related to the arterial access site.  

You will likely have bruising (ecchymosis) where the artery was entered.  

Less commonly, patients experience pain and bleeding that may include blood collecting under the skin (hematoma).  

In rare cases, the access artery can become blocked. Infrequently, patients experience persistent leakage of blood where the artery was entered, which can result in the formation of a pseudoaneurysm — a blood-filled sac— that may require further treatment.  

•  Allergic reaction to the iodine contrast dye, which can lead to the development of kidney failure.

•  Very rarely during balloon angioplasty and/or stent placement, part of the arterial blockage can break off (embolism) and travel to more distant arteries. This can worsen blood flow.

What should I do to prepare?

•  Your vascular surgeon will specify how to prepare.

•  You will likely need to stop eating and drinking at least eight (8) hours before the procedure.

•  Occasionally, certain medications may need to be stopped.

What can I expect after the test?

•  Angiograms (with or without balloon angioplasty/stenting) are considering outpatient procedures and patients usually go home the same day.

•  After the procedure, expect 4-6 hours of bed rest to avoid bleeding at the artery access site.

•  Because sedation is often utilized, you will likely not be able to drive yourself home. Be sure to arrange for transportation after the procedure.

•  Once home, you should avoid heavy lifting, stooping or bending for 2 days to reduce the risk of bleeding at the arterial puncture site. Most other activities can be resumed.

The information contained on is sourced from the Society for Vascular Surgery at It is purely informational, and is not intended, nor should it be relied upon, as a substitute for the advice or treatment of a trained medical professional. Individuals with specific medical problems or questions must consult with their doctor or other health care professional.


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