Coronary Angiogram: Before Your Procedure

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Coronary arteries and plaque in an artery

What is a coronary angiogram?

A coronary angiogram is a test to look at the blood vessels of your heart. These are called the coronary arteries. You may have this test to see if any of these arteries are narrowed or blocked. The test may also be used to measure the pressure in your heart's chambers. A doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube into a blood vessel in your upper leg or groin. This tube is called a catheter. In some cases, the doctor may insert the catheter in a blood vessel near your elbow or wrist.

During the test, the doctor moves the catheter through the blood vessel and into your heart. Then the doctor injects a dye into the catheter. This makes your coronary arteries show up on a screen so the doctor can see any blockage or narrowing of the arteries.

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.

What happens before the procedure?

Preparing for the procedure

    Bring a list of questions to ask your doctors. It is important that you understand exactly what procedure is planned, the risks, benefits, and other options before your procedure.
  • 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. Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure.
    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.
    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.
    You may have several tests before the procedure. These may include X-rays, blood tests, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check the electrical activity of your heart.

Taking care of yourself before the procedure

  • Build healthy habits into your life. Changes are best made several weeks before the procedure, since your body may react to sudden changes in your habits.
    • Stay as active as you can.
    • Eat a healthy diet.
    • Cut back or quit alcohol and tobacco.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you do not have one, you may want to prepare one so your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors recommend that everyone prepare these papers before a procedure, regardless of the type of procedure or condition.

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

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking, or your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor has instructed you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, please do so using 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.
  • Do NOT shave the procedure site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

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 orputs 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. Thenyou may have a bandage or a compression device on your groin or arm at the catheter insertion site. This willprevent bleeding.
    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. Thenurse 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 needto keep your arm still for at least one 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.

Going home

  • You will need someone to drive you home.
  • For your safety, you should not drive until you are no longer taking pain medicines, and you can move and react easily.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure, including activity and when you may return to work.

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?

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