The aorta is the main artery going from the heart and supplying blood to the body. An aortic angiogram is a procedure in which the doctor looks at the aorta by putting a dye into the aorta and taking X-rays.
When is it done?
This test is performed to check whether the aorta is blocked, narrowed, leaking, or has a faulty shape. This procedure helps the doctor to make a better diagnosis. The alternatives available are an ultrasound examination or a CT scan.
What preparation is needed?
Follow the instructions of the doctor. No special preparation is needed for local anaesthesia.
What happens during the procedure?
The doctor injects some local anaesthetic into the groin area. The local anaesthesia avoids pain during the procedure. It involves the placement of a catheter, which is a long tube used to deliver the dye. The catheter is inserted into the artery in the leg and guided to the abdominal part of the aorta. The dye is injected into the artery, followed by an X-ray, and then the catheter is removed.
The X-ray shows the status of the artery – whether it is blocked or narrowed and the extent and location of the blockage, narrowing, or deformity. It may also show signs of disease of the kidney arteries.
What happens after the procedure?
The patient is monitored closely for atleast 6 hours. To help control bleeding and heal the artery, firm pressure is applied for about 20 minutes and an ice pack and a sandbag is placed over the puncture site. The patient should remain in bed for the rest of the day.
What are the risks?
This is a safe procedure, however, a small percentage of people may experience adverse effects. These could include an allergic reaction to the dye, which may cause difficulty in breathing, a drop in blood pressure, unconsciousness, or swelling of the skin. The dye may injure the kidneys. However, the special non-ionic dyes used nowadays are quite safe.
The local anaesthetic may not numb the area quite enough and some minor discomfort may be felt. In rare cases, an allergic reaction to the local anaesthetic may occur.
A blood clot around the catheter may block the artery. The catheter may puncture the artery, making it bleed, or knock some debris off the wall of the artery, causing blockage elsewhere in the artery. Surgery may be needed to correct any damage.
When should the doctor be called immediately?
Immediate medical attention must be sought if the puncture site begins to bleed, or the leg or foot becomes cold.