This is an abbreviated version of the complete article.*
An arteriogram is a minimally invasive study in which contrast, or "dye" is injected into an artery while x rays are taken of the area, resulting in detailed images of the arterial anatomy.
The images obtained from the arteriogram are useful in diagnosing and treating a variety of abnormalities.
As with any invasive procedure, an arteriogram carries certain risks. The most common complication is a hematoma (bleeding under the skin).
An arteriogram uses x rays to view the anatomy of the body's arteries and is also known as an angiogram. This is usually an outpatient test.
To create x ray images, contrast dye is injected through a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) that is threaded into the desired artery from an artery in the groin or in the arm. The dye makes blood vessels visible on x ray, and the resulting images are used to diagnose vascular conditions, help physicians plan procedures, or even guide surgeons during treatments.
To prepare for an arteriogram, patients are advised to:
Stop taking aspirin or other anti-clotting drugs several days before the test;
Drink plenty of fluids the day before the test;
Avoid eating or drinking after midnight the evening before the test; and
Arrange for a ride home.
Potential complications include excessive bleeding at the puncture site, allergic reactions, kidney failure, and arterial blockage caused by disrupted plaque.
Risk factors for complications include:
Allergy to iodine, which may cause a reaction to the dye; and
Kidney problems, because the dye can be mildly toxic to the kidneys.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The arteriogram generally takes 1 to 3 hours, plus 2 to 6 hours for observation afterward. The procedure is nearly painless, but involves mild discomfort from the initial arterial puncture and from lying on a hard surface for a long period of time.
Physicians often place catheters in the femoral artery in the groin.
Immediately before the arteriogram, the patient is connected to an intravenous line, through which fluids and medications are administered, and to machines that monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs.
The part of the arm or leg where the dye is administered is shaved, cleaned, and injected with a local anesthetic. A hollow needle punctures the artery and a catheter is inserted and guided to the desired location with the help of x ray images.
Once the catheter is in the proper place it is injected with contrast material. During and after the injection x ray images are taken. The patient is told to hold his or her breath several times for about 5 to 15 seconds and lie perfectly still to prevent distorting the x ray pictures.
Results are often available within several hours of the test.
After all x rays have been taken and the catheter removed, the arm or leg into which the catheter was inserted should be kept straight for several hours. During recovery, the patient is also asked to drink fluids, and a nurse checks vital signs regularly. Antibiotics may be given to prevent infection, and if necessary, painkillers are prescribed to relieve discomfort at the catheter insertion site.
At home, patients can:
Resume a normal diet;
Continue drinking extra fluids for 1 to 2 days;
Keep the affected arm or leg extended but not elevated;
Avoid hot baths or showers for at least 12 hours after the arteriogram; and
Avoid physical activities such as climbing stairs, driving, and walking.
Most patients can resume normal activities within 1 or 2 days.
During the recovery phase, the patient may experience nausea, vomiting, or coughing.
The patient should notify medical personnel if complications arise. These include bleeding, pain, or swelling at the site where the catheter was inserted, and pain, numbness, or coolness in the affected arm or leg.
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