Cerebral Angiography

Angiography produces an angiogram or an X-ray your blood vessels. Your neuroradiologist injects a chemical into your blood vessels that makes them easier to see on an X-ray.

Angiograms help:

  • Identify narrowed, enlarged and blocked blood vessels
  • Determine if there’s blood leaking out of the vessels and into other parts of your body

In some cases, your doctor can treat a blocked blood vessel during the procedure. This would prevent the need for another procedure.

What Happens During an Angiogram Procedure 

Your doctor makes a small incision into your skin and places the catheter through the incision into an artery. Your doctor guides the catheter through the arteries to the area for examination. Contrast material helps your doctor view the procedure on a nearby monitor and take X-rays. Once your doctor removed the catheter, he or she will apply pressure the area for about 10 minutes.

The procedure can take as little as an hour, but it depends on whether your doctor decides to fix any problems at the same time.

Although the procedure is not painful, you may feel the following discomfort:

  • Brief sting during the local anesthesia injection
  • Pressure during insertion of the catheter
  • Hot and flushed sensation during the injection of the contrast material

After Your Angiography

Immediately following the procedure:

  • You’ll need to lie flat for a period of time. The length of time depends on your overall health and the reason for the exam.
  • You may need to have pressure applied to the entry site to control bleeding.
  • Tell the nurse if you notice any swelling, bleeding, black and blue marks or pain near the catheter site.
  • Drink fluids to flush the contrast material from your system.

Your doctor examines the X-rays and will discuss the findings and any necessary treatment options with you.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Allergic reaction to the chemical used
  • Abnormal heart beats, called arrhythmias
  • Bleeding at point of catheter insertion
  • Damage to blood vessels, which can cause damage to organs and tissue
  • Kidney damage from contrast material
  • Infection
  • Stroke

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Allergies, especially to X-ray dye, iodine, medications or certain foods, including shellfish
  • Kidney problems
  • Diabetes
  • Bleeding disorder

View Your Scan Results

Have you had an angiography at UVA?

See your imaging results and scans online using MyChart.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.