Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. In fact, the CDC claims that an American dies every 37 seconds form it. Among heart diseases, coronary artery disease is the most common diagnosis There are several diagnostic tests that can be used to achieve that diagnosis, and at the Commonwealth Vein Center in Colonial Heights, VA, we use an angiogram to check for blockages and narrowing of arteries that are hallmarks of this disorder.
What Is an Angiogram?
This is a commonly used diagnostic test that detects signs of heart disease, such as blocked, narrowed, or damaged arteries and blood vessels. Coronary atherosclerosis, aneurysms, and vascular stenosis are among the conditions doctors can diagnose with it.
What Does It Do?
This test provides an inside look at your heart and arteries. It utilizes a catheter, which is inserted into and threaded through a predetermined artery. A dye is injected through this catheter, and its movement is captured with medical imaging technology. It is even possible to see those images as they are being recorded.
The results of a coronary angiogram can help a doctor diagnose specific types of heart disease. They also provide a detailed and specific picture of any damage inside of arteries or the heart. This can then be used to help determine an appropriate treatment plan.
How Is It Performed?
Angiograms are generally performed in specially equipped rooms called catheterization (or “cath”) labs. This will have the imaging equipment needed to get clear and accurate pictures of your arteries and heart function.
Before Your Test
Dr. Samee will give you any special instructions before your test. It is important that you follow all of those instructions and discuss any medications both prescription and over the counter as well as any supplements) to avoid complications. Some of the instructions you may receive before your test include:
- Undergo blood work to establish liver function and blood clotting ability
- Avoid eating or drinking for several hours before the procedure
- Adapt medication schedules in the case of possible interactions
- Administer a sedative before the procedure to help keep you calm and comfortable
During Your Test
You will be asked to lie on an exam table inside the cath lab. The chosen access point will be cleaned and prepped for your catheter, and you will receive an injection of lidocaine to numb the area. The catheter is then inserted. There are three widely used access points:
- The femoral artery in the groin
- The radial artery in the wrist
- The brachial artery in the inside of the elbow
Once it is inserted, we will carefully guide the catheter through the artery using imaging to ensure a smooth and safe route. There are no nerves inside your arteries, so the mild pressure experienced during insertion is likely to be the only thing you feel. The catheter will be threaded close to the heart to perform a test of heart muscle function.
A dye is injected through the catheter to provide a clear, visible contrast on images. It shows up on x-ray images as a black line against a light or white background. This provides a detailed image of the arteries, including and areas that might be concerning.
You will remain awake throughout the process so that you can perform any requested actions required to perform the testing. This also helps minimize the need for a prolonged recovery period.
After Your Test
Pressure will be applied to the insertions site immediately after the catheter is removed. This will last for about 15 minutes to ensure proper clotting. You will be asked to rest for several hours. Other than that, minimal recovery is needed after this diagnostic procedure.
Once you have the results of your test, you will have the opportunity to review them with Dr. Samee. He will explain what each image shows, and what it means for your heart health, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Many people can manage coronary artery disease with medications and lifestyle modifications. However, some will need to undergo additional procedures to address their condition. If your diagnosis warrants, coronary bypass surgery, angioplasty, or stenting may be recommended.
Is This the Same as an Angioplasty?
This test is sometimes confused with an angioplasty. They are, however, distinct procedures. Instead of being diagnostic in nature, an angioplasty uses a balloon-like device to open up clogged or narrowed passages within arteries. If the damage is severe, and Dr. Samee feels it is necessary to act immediately, an angioplasty can be used during your test to open up the narrowed section of the artery and restore proper blood flow to the area.
Who Is This For?
There is no set rule about who should undergo diagnostic imaging tests for heart disease. However, an angiogram may be ordered if you:
- Are experiencing new or unusual chest pain
- Have had a heart attack, stroke or heart failure
- Receive abnormal results form a stress test
- Show signs of a blocked or narrow artery
While doctors frequently use angiograms to diagnose and assess heart disease, that isn’t their only purpose. They can also be used to determine blood flow to a tumor, check for heart function before surgery, assess treatment progress, or uncover congenital heart defects.
Consider an Angiogram
This test can provide you with valuable information about what’s happening inside. If you’re experiencing any new symptoms, or if your doctor needs more information about your health, an angiogram is a simple test that provides a lot of insight.