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Learning About Carotid Angiogram

Catheter put into blood vessel at groin and moved up to neck, with detail of catheter in carotid artery in neck

What is a carotid angiogram?

A carotid angiogram is an X-ray test to look at blood flow in the carotid arteries. These are the large blood vessels in your neck that carry blood to your brain. Your doctor will put a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. The catheter is used to put a dye into the carotid artery to see the blood flow. You may have this test to see if a carotid artery is narrowed.

How is it done?

A carotid angiogram is done in a catheterization laboratory ("cath lab").

You lie on a table under a large X-ray machine. You will get medicine through a tube (I.V.) in one of your veins to help you relax and not feel pain. You will be awake during the procedure. But you may not be able to remember much about it.

Your doctor will put some medicine into your arm or groin to numb the skin. You will feel a small needle stick, like having a blood test. You may feel some pressure when your doctor puts in the catheter, but you will not feel pain.

Your doctor will look at X-ray pictures on a monitor to move the catheter to your neck. You may feel warm or flushed for a short time when your doctor puts dye into your artery. If you have a narrowed artery, the doctor may use the catheter to insert a stent into the artery. The stent helps keep the artery open.

What happens after the procedure?

The catheter will be removed. A nurse may press on a bandage on the opening to prevent bleeding. A small device may also be used to close the blood vessel. The area may be covered with a bandage or a compression device. You will be taken to a room where the catheter site and your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked several times.

If the catheter was put in your groin, you will need to lie still and keep your leg straight for up to a few hours. The nurse may put a weighted bag on your leg to keep it still. If the catheter was put in your arm, you may be able to sit up right away. But you will need to keep your arm still for at least 1 hour. Don't do anything strenuous until your doctor says it is okay. This may be for several days.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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