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Coronary Angiography: X-raying the arteries

A coronary angiography is a test that uses dye and special x-rays to show the insides of your coronary arteries. The coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

A waxy substance called plaque can build up inside these arteries. The buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries is called coronary heart disease (CHD).

Over time, plaque can harden or rupture (break open). Hardened plaque narrows these arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This can cause chest pain or discomfort called angina
If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form on its surface. A large blood clot can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. This is the most common cause of a heart attack. Over time, ruptured plaque also hardens and narrows the coronary arteries.

During a coronary angiography, a special dye is released into your bloodstream. The dye makes your coronary arteries visible on x-ray pictures. This helps doctors see blockages in the arteries.

A procedure called cardiac catheterization is used to get the dye into the coronary arteries.

For this procedure, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in your arm or groin (upper thigh). The tube is threaded into your coronary arteries, and the dye is released into your bloodstream. X-ray pictures are taken while the dye is flowing through the coronary arteries.

Cardiologists (heart specialists) usually do cardiac catheterization in a hospital. You're awake during the procedure, and it causes little or no pain. However, you may feel some soreness in the blood vessel where the catheter was inserted.

What to expect during a Coronary Angiography
During a coronary angiography, you are kept on your back and awake. This allows you to follow your doctor's instructions during the test. You'll be given medicine to help you relax. The medicine might make you sleepy.

Your doctor will numb the area on the arm or groin (upper thigh) where the catheter will enter your blood vessel. Then, he or she will use a needle to make a small hole in the blood vessel. The catheter will be inserted in the hole.

Next, your doctor will thread the catheter through the vessel and into the coronary arteries. Special x-ray movies are taken of the catheter as it is moved into the heart. The movies help your doctor see where to place the tip of the catheter.

Once the catheter is properly placed, your doctor will inject a special type of dye into the tube. The dye will flow through your coronary arteries, making them visible on an x-ray. This x ray is called an angiogram.

If the angiogram reveals blocked arteries, your doctor may use a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), commonly known as coronary angioplasty, to restore blood flow to your heart.

After your doctor completes the procedure(s), he or she will remove the catheter from your body. The opening left in the blood vessel will then be closed up and bandaged.

A small sandbag or other type of weight might be placed on the bandage to apply pressure. This will help prevent major bleeding from the site.

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information & PubMed Health

Dr Nadeem Rizvi
Dr Syed Nadeem Hassan Rizvi
Consultant Cardiologist

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(+9221) 358 62 301 to 03
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