Brain Angiogram: Before Your Procedure

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What is a brain angiogram?

A brain angiogram (cerebral angiogram) is a test (also called a procedure) that looks for problems with blood vessels and blow flow in the brain. These problems may include a bulge in a blood vessel (aneurysm), a narrowing or blockage of a blood vessel, or bleeding in the brain. The test may be used to check other symptoms, such as unusual headaches, or to check problems found during a different test.

The doctor puts a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in your groin. Or the doctor may put the catheter in a blood vessel in your arm.

During the procedure, the doctor moves the catheter through the blood vessel into your brain. Then he or she injects a dye into the catheter. The dye flows into the blood vessel. The dye makes the blood vessels show up on a video screen. A picture of the blood vessel in the brain can be seen on a video screen. The doctor can look at the screen to see any problems with the blood vessels or blood flow.

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 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.

What happens before the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the procedure. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

At home

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • After the procedure, pressure will be applied to the area where the catheter was put into your artery. This will prevent bleeding. A bandage may be placed on the area. The bandage will stay on your groin or arm.
  • Nurses will check your heart rate and blood pressure. The nurse also will check the catheter site for bleeding.
  • If the catheter was put in your groin, you will need to lie still and keep your leg straight for several hours. The nurse may put a weighted bag on your leg to help you keep it still.
  • If the catheter was put in your arm, you may be able to sit up and get out of bed right away. But you will need to keep your arm still for at least 1 hour.
  • You may be able to go home later the same day, or you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
  • You may have a bruise where the catheter was put in your groin or arm. This is normal and will go away.
  • The procedure will take about 1 to 3 hours.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

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

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