Brain Angiogram: What to Expect at Home

Skip to the navigation

Your Recovery

A brain angiogram (cerebral angiogram) is a test (also called a procedure) that looks for problems with blood vessels and blood flow in the brain. The doctor inserted a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in your groin. Or the doctor may have put the catheter in a blood vessel in your arm. Then he or she injected a dye into the catheter. The dye flows into the blood vessel. The dye made the blood vessels show up on a video screen.

You may have had this test to see if a blood vessel in the brain is bulging, narrowed, or blocked. The test may also be used to check other symptoms, such as unusual headaches, or to check problems found during a different test.

You may have a bruise where the catheter was inserted, and you may feel sore for a day or two after a brain angiogram. You can do light activities around the house. But don't do anything strenuous for several days.

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 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.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry. Do not take a bath for 1 week, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • 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 wrist deeply for the first couple of days. Be careful using your hand to get into and out of a chair or bed.
  • 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.
  • Keep eating a heart-healthy diet that has lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you need help with your diet, talk to your doctor. You also may want to talk to a dietitian. This expert can help you to learn about healthy foods and plan meals.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • 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 and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • 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.

Care of the catheter site

  • For the first 3 days, keep a bandage over the spot where the catheter was put in.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

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 have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • 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.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • Your leg or arm looks blue or feels cold, numb, or tingly.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You are not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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

Enter O249 in the search box to learn more about "Brain Angiogram: What to Expect at Home."