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An Angiogram is a minimally invasive procedure where a clinician introduces a thin catheter or tube into a blood vessel (usually an artery). Radio-opaque contrast is then injected into the vessel and pictures taken which highlight the vessel lumen. It is generally done to determine if there are stenoses (narrowings) or leakages from blood vessels. Stenoses (narrowings in a blood vessel) can then be pushed open by blowing up balloons within them (angioplasty), and can be held open with stents (tube), all done through the same thin catheter. Leaking blood vessels can be blocked by several means including embolisation (releasing material within the vessel that promotes clot formation), or stent positioning at the leaking site. Other procedures can also be undertaken through the catheter including thrombolysis (dissolving a clot), endovascular ultrasound, placement of other intravascular devices, electrophysiological studies and ablation.
The patient lies on a flat procedure table whilst a team of interventional clinicians and technicians operate. Light sedation may be required. Local anaesthetic is injected into the entry site which is usually in the groin, elbow or wrist. At one of these sites a thin cathether is then placed into the appropriate blood vessel and advanced under x-ray guidance. When the catheter is placed at the proximal end of an area of interest contrast is injected and images taken. An outline is then achieved of the blood vessels distal to that catheter tip. Interpreting these images, taken at several angles allows diagnostic and therapeutic decisions to then be made. Severity of stenoses of narrowings is assessed, complete blockages diagnosed and bleeding sites found. Appropriate therapeutic measures can then be taken.
Once the procedure is over the catheter is removed and pressure placed over the wound site until bleeding stops. The patient is often discharged later in the day after a simple diagnostic procedure, but may stay longer if a therapy has been completed. Complications can occur, the most common being injury to the blood vessel. Recovery really depends on the underlying condition, and risks and recovery should be discussed with the doctors involved in your procedure.
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