A carotid angiogram is a test to look at the carotid arteries. These are the large blood vessels in your neck that carry blood to your brain (carotid arteries). Your doctor will put a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in your groin. In some cases, the doctor puts the catheter in a blood vessel in your arm. You may have this test to see if a carotid artery is narrowed or blocked.
During the test, your doctor moves the catheter through your blood vessels to the carotid artery in your neck. Then he or she puts dye into the catheter. This makes your carotid artery show up on a screen so your doctor can see any blockage or narrowing of the artery.
You may go home the same day or the next day.
A carotid angiogram is done in a catheterization laboratory ("cath lab"). The whole procedure may take 1½ to 3 hours.
You lie on a table under a large X-ray machine. You will get medicine through a tube (IV) 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 (like a TV set) 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. Then he or she may inflate a tiny balloon at the end of the catheter. The balloon may stay inflated for a short time. Then it is deflated and removed. Your doctor also may use the catheter to put a stent in the artery.
The catheter will be removed. A nurse may press on a bandage on the opening to prevent bleeding. Then the area may be covered with a bandage or a compression device. After the test, 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 several 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 and get out of bed right away. But you will need to keep your arm still for at least 1 hour. After that, you can move around, but take care not to do a lot of activity for 1 to 2 days.
Make sure to drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to) for several hours after the test. This will help flush the dye out of your body.
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.
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Current as of: March 23, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Howard Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
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