Diagnostic coronary angiography is the most effective method for diagnosing atherosclerosis, the gradual buildup of plaque within the coronary artery walls that leads to hardening and narrowing of the vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle.
What happens during a diagnostic coronary angiography?
A catheter is inserted via a peripheral artery, either at the groin or at the wrist and then into the root of the aorta, where the coronary arteries supplying the heart muscle with blood originate. Contrast media containing iodine is injected into the coronary arteries so they can be visualized by x-ray. Narrowed segments and blockages within the arteries can be detected and blood-flow characteristics can be accurately evaluated. The heart valves and heart muscle function are also evaluated.
When should a patient have a diagnostic coronary angiography?
The diagnostic coronary angiography is used in the following cases:
- For patients complaining of chest pain (angina) during exertion
- To further investigate the coronary system following results from non-invasive tests that raise the suspicion of obstructive coronary atherosclerosis
- When patients repeatedly complain of chest pain of unknown origin
- If doctors suspect a narrowing of a large coronary artery
- For patients with risk factors for coronary artery disease, such as: smoking, excess weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or family history of heart disease, who suffer from angina pectoris
Results from diagnostic coronary angiography
One or more of the three following courses of action will generally be recommended by the physician based on the findings of the diagnostic angiogram:
- Administration of specific medications that reduce the risk of future adverse events (such as a heart attack or a life-threatening arrhythmia)
- In the case of severe arterial blockage(s), angioplasty can be performed immediately following diagnostic angiography to restore normal blood flow, usually by implanting a drug eluting stent
- Referral for coronary bypass surgery and/or valve repair
Diagnostic coronary angiography is done under local anesthesia and takes about 10-30 minutes. It generally requires no more than a few hours of observation following the procedure and same-day discharge if often possible.
• Coronary angiography
• Coronary angiogram