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Catheter Angiography

Visualizing the vascular system

Catheter angiography is a minimally invasive interventional radiology procedure in which a catheter (thin plastic tube) is placed through a tiny skin incision into blood vessels and then guided through the blood vessels using fluoroscopy or ultrasound imaging to visualize the vascular system. Often, a contrast material is used to produce the best possible images in order to examine the vessels and organs for problems such as aneurysms, vascular malformation, and atherosclerosis (plaque). In some cases, catheter angiography is used to clear blocked vessels or to place stents in vessels to allow for better blood flow. Catheter angiography produces detailed and accurate pictures of blood vessels so that problems can be diagnosed and even treated in a single procedure.

  • Catheter angiography is used to detect many kinds of arterial disorders such as aneurysm, plaques, arteriovenous malformations, dissection, embolism, arterial narrowing, and other anatomic abnormalities.
  • Physicians also frequently order catheter angiography in preparation for other exams or procedures to evaluate the blood supply to a specific body part, including the brain, neck, heart, chest, abdomen, pelvis, legs and feet, and arms and hands.
  • Catheter angiography is used to evaluate and repair a number of issues. It is used to:
    • Guide interventional radiologists in procedures to repair blood vessels – using devices to remove plaque or placing stents to reconstruct the vessel.
    • Examine the aorta in the neck, chest, or abdomen, or other arteries for abnormalities such as aneurysm.
    • Visualize the extent of arterial damage after trauma.
    • Identify vascular malformations (blood vessels that form abnormal connections) in the brain or other parts of the body
    • Map arteries in preparation for arterial bypass, reconstructive surgery, or stent placement.
    • Find issues in the arteries of the kidney or evaluate blood flood to prepare for surgery, stenting or kidney transplant.
    • Detect atherosclerosis (plaque) in arteries around the body.
    • Evaluate the blood supply of a tumor and directly treat tumors using the blood supply.


  • Catheter angiography is minimally invasive and be performed as an elective day procedure. This reduces overall risk, complications, and recovery time.
  • Diagnosis and treatment can be accomplished in a single focused procedure. For instance, after discovering an artery that is dangerously narrowed by plaque, interventional radiologists can place a stent in that spot to expand the artery.
  • Catheter angiography can serve as an alternative to surgery and may make surgery unnecessary. If surgery is needed, angiography can help by providing detailed and accurate pictures so physicians make the best decisions and deliver the most accurate treatment.
  • Catheter angiography can complement treatment of tumors by treating the tumors directly through the tiny arteries supplying a tumor.


  • Catheter angiography uses a very small dose of radiation, and the benefit from accurate diagnosis and successful treatment far outweighs the risk. Please see ARA’s information on Radiation Safety.
  • There is a very small risk for contrast allergy. If you have had an allergic reaction to contrast material in the past, your radiologist may recommend that you take medication for 24 hours before the procedure to reduce risk.
  • While extremely rare, there is a risk of serious allergic reaction to iodinated contrast. ARA radiologists and staff are well prepared in the event of such a reaction.
  • Intravenous contrast manufacturers state that mothers should not breastfeed for 1 to 2 days after they receive contrast material. The American College of Radiology (ACR) says that current information suggests that breastfeeding is safe after the use of intravenous contrast. Please discuss your breastfeeding options with your physician.
  • Women should always inform the scheduler, physician, and technologist if they are pregnant. It may be necessary to use an alternate exam.
  • Patients with diabetes or kidney disease may experience kidney damage from the contrast material. To check for this, a small amount of blood will be drawn before the procedure to check kidney function as well as clotting ability.
  • In very rare cases, the catheterization may injure a vessel, which can cause bleeding or vessel blockage. This may require additional procedures to clear the vessel or stop the bleeding.
  • Catheter angiography is usually done on an outpatient basis in an ARA imaging center or a hospital setting.
  • Depending on the complexity of the procedure, your exam may last from one hour to several hours.
  • You may be asked to remove all metal and jewelry, and you will be asked to change into a gown
  • Before the exam, a paramedic or technologist will start an intravenous (IV) line in your arm or hand. A small amount of blood will be taken to check for kidney disease and clotting ability.
  • Electrodes may be placed on your chest to monitor your heart function during the procedure.
  • You will be positioned comfortably on the exam table. At this point, a dose of sedative may be delivered through the IV to help you relax. The area where the catheter will be inserted may be shaved and will be cleaned and numbed with local anesthetic, which may sting briefly.
  • The radiologist will make a tiny nick in your skin and guide the catheter into the artery, then guide the catheter through the blood vessels until it reaches the area to be examined. At this point, contrast material is injected. You may feel a warm sensation as the contrast material enters your bloodstream. Contrast material helps make the vessels appear more clearly on the image.
  • Several sets of images are taken of the exam area, using either CT, MRI, or X-ray.
  • You may be asked to wait while the radiologist checks the images to be sure the proper information has been obtained.
  • The catheter is removed, and pressure is applied to the area until clotting has happened, which is about 10 to 20 minutes.
  • The IV line is removed, and you will be taken to a quiet area to rest and wake up under observation.
  • If you are sedated for the procedure, you should have someone with you who can drive you home. You should not drive for 24 hours after your exam.
  • You may resume your normal activities 8 to 12 hours after the exam. You may resume your normal diet immediately.
  • Please let your health care provider and your ARA scheduler know of all medications you are taking and if you have allergies, especially to iodinated contrast material. Also let them know about recent illnesses or ongoing medical conditions.
  • If you take any blood-thinning medications, aspirin, or products containing aspirin, please contact our office for instructions on discontinuing the medications prior to your procedure.
  • You will be asked to remove clothes over the area being examined and to wear a gown. Depending on the exam you may be asked to remove jewelry, glasses, dental appliances or any metal objects that might interfere with the scan.
  • Women should always inform the scheduler, referring provider, and technologist if they are pregnant. It may be necessary to use an alternate exam.
  • Some doctors recommend that breastfeeding women wait 24 to 48 hours until the contrast clears from their system before breastfeeding again. Before the procedure, breastfeeding women may want to pump breastmilk to have on hand.
  • If your exam plans include giving you a sedative, you may be instructed not to eat or drink for 4 to 8 hours before the exam. Please discuss this with your ARA scheduler to get instructions.
  • If you are sedated, please plan to bring a friend or relative to drive you home. You will be kept for observation at the facility until you are cleared to leave and should not plan to drive for 24 hours following the exam.

To schedule a catheter angiography, please call our interventional team at (512) 467-XRAY or (512) 467-9729. A provider referral is required to make an appointment.

A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to interpret radiological examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to the provider who referred you to ARA. The physician will then share the results with you.


Doctor Michael Jaimes Talks About Interventional Radiology

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