What is coronary angiography?

Coronary Angiography

Coronary angiography is a procedure that allows your doctor to take a picture or image (an angiogram) of the blood vessels (arteries) that supply your heart muscle. Doctors use coronary angiography to study the arteries of your heart that are obstructed, blocked, or narrowed, and diagnose the underlying cause.

Coronary angiography is only one method used to diagnose a variety of heart and vascular diseases, and conditions. Discuss all the testing options with your doctor understand which options are right for you.  

Types of coronary angiography

The types of coronary angiography procedures include:

  • Catheter coronary angiography involves inserting a catheter into a vessel in your groin or arm. The catheter wire is then fed, or guided to the area to be examined. X-rays are used to produce the angiogram or picture of the vessel.
  • Noninvasive coronary angiography uses computed tomography (CT), or sometimes magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) or ultrasound, to produce the angiogram. CT involves radiation exposure but MRI and ultrasound methods do not.

Catheter coronary angiography, and in some cases, noninvasive coronary angiography, use a contrast agent, sometimes called a dye. This is administered intravenously (through an IV). The contrast agent improves the quality of the image.

Other procedures that may be performed

The following catheter procedures can be performed during a catheter coronary angiography:

  • Angioplasty to widen a narrowed or obstructed vessel
  • Blood clot removal by injecting clot-dissolving medications into the artery via the catheter
  • Cardiac catheterization to examine the interior of the heart chambers, the heart valves, and evaluate heart function
  • Stent placement with a mesh tube, which is permanently inserted into the blood vessel to keep the vessel open

These procedures cannot be performed during noninvasive coronary angiography because it does not use a catheter. Your doctor may recommend a catheter procedure or surgery if a noninvasive coronary angiography diagnoses serious heart disease.

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 11, 2013

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Medical References

Angiogram. Society for Vascular Surgery. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Angiography. The Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Angiography or Angiogram. Society of Interventional Radiology. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Angiography Test. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Cardiac MRI. American College of Radiology. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Catheter Angiography. American College of Radiology. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA). American College of Radiology. Accessed April 25, 2013.
Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. Accessed April 25, 2013.

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