Cerebral Angiography

Cerebral angiography uses a catheter, x-ray imaging guidance and an injection of contrast material to examine blood vessels in the brain for abnormalities such as aneurysms and disease such as atherosclerosis (plaque). The use of a catheter makes it possible to combine diagnosis and treatment in a single procedure. Cerebral angiography produces very detailed, clear and accurate pictures of blood vessels in the brain and may eliminate the need for surgery.

When is the procedure recommended?

Healthcare providers use this procedure to detect or confirm abnormalities within the blood vessels in the brain, including:

  • Confirm presence of an aneurysm, brain tumor, or blood clot
  • Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) or Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)
  • A tear in the wall of an artery, known as a vascular dissection
  • Stroke
  • Evaluate arteries of the head and neck before surgery
  • To prepare for other medical treatment; such as in the surgical removal or vessel abnormality
  • To help diagnose the cause of symptoms, such as:
    • severe headaches
    • slurred speech
    • dizziness
    • blurred or double vision
    • weakness or numbness
    • loss of coordination or balance

How is the procedure performed?

Using x-ray-guidance, a catheter (a long, thin, hollow plastic tube) is inserted into a blood vessel through a tiny hole made by a needle and directed to the area to be examined. Contrast material is then injected through the catheter. A special machine, called a power injector, is used to deliver the contrast material at a precise rate and volume. The injector is attached to the catheter for this purpose. When the contrast material reaches the blood vessels being examined, several sets of x-rays will be taken.  When the procedure is complete, the radiologist will remove the catheter and apply pressure to stop any bleeding. Sometimes, the procedure may include the use of a closure device to seal the small hole in the artery. 

What are the benefits?

  • Angiography may eliminate the need for surgery. If surgery remains necessary, it can be performed more accurately.
  • Cerebral angiography presents a very detailed, clear and accurate picture of blood vessels in the brain. This is especially helpful when a surgical procedure or other treatment is being considered.
  • Use of a catheter makes it possible to combine diagnosis and treatment in a single procedure.
  • X-rays usually have no side effects in the typical diagnostic range for this exam.

 

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