What to expect from a peripheral angiography
angiography, or peripheral angiogram, is a minimally invasive imaging test to
detect blood flow issues and narrowed arteries. The test gives you and your
healthcare provider essential information to help lower your risk of a heart
attack, stroke, or another significant health event down the road.
What are peripheral angiograms?
A type of specialized
X-ray, peripheral angiograms take images of the arteries that supply blood
to the arms, hands, legs, and feet. The images allow your healthcare provider
to see if any narrowed or blocked arteries interfere with your blood flow.
Sometimes, peripheral angiograms are also called peripheral vascular angiograms
or extremity angiograms.
Your healthcare provider might order a peripheral vascular
angiogram when they think you could have peripheral artery disease (PAD). This
condition occurs when blood vessels carrying blood from the heart to the rest
of the body narrow. When you have PAD, a buildup of fat and cholesterol called plaque collects on the walls of the arteries,
making it difficult for blood to get through.
Often, PAD doesn't have symptoms. However, it can cause:
- A weak pulse in the feet or legs
- Blue or pale skin
- Decreased leg hair or slow toenail growth
- Erectile dysfunction
- Heaviness, numbness, or pain in the legs, especially when active
- One leg to feel cooler than the other
- Sores or wounds on the feet or legs that heal poorly or slowly
Even without symptoms, PAD can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. A severely blocked artery might also
cause tissue damage, which could eventually lead to amputation. A peripheral
angiogram helps your healthcare provider spot areas of concern before they
become life- or limb-threatening.
Generally, you'll need to avoid eating or drinking for about
six to eight hours before your angiogram. Tell your healthcare provider about
all dietary supplements, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and
vitamins you take. You might need to stop taking one or more of these before
Make sure your provider knows if you're pregnant or have:
- A history of bleeding issues
- Allergies, especially to contrast dye, iodine, latex, or any medications
Plan to have a friend or family member drive you home after
Once you're checked in and have been called back for your
procedure, a nurse will insert an intravenous line, or IV, into your arm to
give you fluids and medication during the peripheral angiogram.
For the test, you'll lie flat on a special table. Your
provider will clean and shave the skin around the procedure site, usually near
the groin. In most cases, you'll stay awake but will be given local anesthesia
to numb the area.
Next, your provider will make a tiny needle puncture and
thread a thin tube called a catheter into your artery. They'll inject a small
amount of contrast dye through the catheter to make your blood vessels stand
out on the X-ray images.
After the X-rays are taken, you'll move to a recovery room.
A nurse will apply pressure to the puncture site for about 10 to 20 minutes to
prevent severe bleeding. A care team member will monitor you for a few hours to
ensure you're recovering well. Peripheral angiograms are generally safe, but
there are some risks, including a blood clot or an allergic reaction to the
Once you're home:
- Avoid driving for at least two more days.
- Drink plenty of fluids to flush out the dye and stay hydrated.
- Follow your provider's orders for restarting medications.
- Slowly increase your daily activities back to your typical level.
The next steps after your peripheral angiography depend on
your results. If the test reveals narrowed or blocked arteries, your healthcare
provider could recommend medication, a minimally invasive procedure called a
peripheral angioplasty to open up narrow arteries, and lifestyle
- Avoiding or quitting smoking
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Learning new ways to manage stress
- Participating in cardiac rehabilitation
Ready to learn more about your heart health? Schedule an
appointment with a Reid Health
heart and vascular care specialist.