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Angiogram: What to Expect at Home

Your Recovery

An angiogram is an X-ray test that uses dye and imaging to take pictures of the blood flow in an artery or a vein. The doctor inserted a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in your groin. In some cases, the catheter is placed in a blood vessel in the arm.

An angiogram is done for many reasons. For example, you may have an angiogram to find the source of bleeding, such as an ulcer. Or it may be done to look for blocked blood vessels in your lungs.

After an angiogram, your groin or arm may have a bruise and feel sore for a day or two. You can do light activities around the house but nothing strenuous for several days.

Your doctor may give you specific instructions on when you can do your normal activities again, such as driving and going back to work.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Do not do strenuous exercise and do not lift, pull, or push anything heavy (more than 4.5 kg or 10 lb) until your doctor says it is okay. This may be for a day or two. You can walk around the house and do light activity, such as cooking.
  • If the catheter was placed in your groin, try not to walk up stairs for the first couple of days.
  • If the catheter was placed in your arm near your wrist, do not bend your arm deeply for the first couple of days. Be careful using your hand to get into and out of a chair or bed. Other things to avoid include:
    • Lifting, carrying or pushing anything heavier than 2 kg (5 lb), with the affected arm, for 5 days after the procedure.
    • Repetitive arm or wrist movements, including computer work.
    • Having your blood pressure checked or an intravenous (IV) started on the arm used during the procedure for 24 hours.
  • If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 2½ hours a week.

Diet

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help your body flush out the dye. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.

Medicines

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. They will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.

Care of the catheter site

  • You will have a dressing over the cut (incision). A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. Do this for the first few days only. If the area stays sore for more than a few days, talk to your doctor or nurse.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry. Avoid creams, lotions, and ointments on the catheter site.
  • Do not soak the catheter site in a bath, hot tub, or swimming pool until it is completely healed (no longer a scab).
  • Watch for bleeding from the site. A small amount of blood (up to the size of a quarter) on the bandage can be normal.
  • If you start bleeding more than this or have a fast growing, painful lump at the procedure site, call 911 and do the following:
    • Lie down and call for help (friend or family).
    • Apply pressure using your fingers or fist at the procedure site. Hold this pressure for 20 minutes.
    • If the bleeding stops - lie still, keep flat until emergency help arrives.
    • If the bleeding does not stop - keep firm pressure to the procedure site until emergency help arrives.

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 call line 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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You are bleeding from the area where the catheter was put in your artery.
  • You have a fast growing, painful lump at the catheter site.

Call your doctor or Health Link at 811 or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • Worsening numbness or a significant change in the temperature or colour in the arm or leg with the catheter site.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or Health Link at 811 if:

  • You don't get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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