What is angiography?

Cerebral angiography is an imaging test used to diagnose problems with the arteries or veins in the neck and brain. This test involves the use of special thin tubes called catheters, an x-ray machine, and video system. This test is ideal for a person who has or is suspected of having a brain tumor, cerebral aneurysm, fracture of the skull or neck, head injury, seizure disorder, epilepsy or stroke.

What can I expect during this procedure?

This test requires that a person lie on a flat platform. First, the radiologist will numb the skin in the groin area with a local anesthetic. Once the skin is numb, the radiologist inserts a small needle through the skin and into the artery. The radiologist can then insert a catheter into the artery through the small puncture made with the needle. The catheters are very thin devices and are several inches long.

Once the catheter is in place in the artery, the radiologist will advance it into the largest artery in the body, the aorta. This artery connects directly to the heart. The important arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the neck and brain come from the aorta. An x-ray machine is used to help guide the catheter into proper position.

A special dye called a contrast agent is used to make the arteries more visible. The contrast agent is injected into the catheter and enters the arteries. This allows the arteries to be clearly seen. The x-ray machine can be used to take several pictures as the contrast agent travels through the arteries. The images are projected onto a video screen so that the radiologist can see the arteries clearly during the test. The radiologist usually takes several pictures of the arteries filled with contrast agent from different angles and positions. Several injections of the contrast agent may be needed.

The standard test will typically take less than an hour. In more complex cases, the exam may last for several hours. In some cases, the radiologist may see an abnormality during the test that can be corrected during the exam. For example, a procedure called angioplasty is sometimes used to open up clogged arteries. This involves inserting tiny tools through the catheter that can widen or open the area of blockage.

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