An x-ray of the arteries and veins in the brain is called a cerebral (sir-REE-brol) angiogram (AN-jee-oh-gram). This test is done to find problems, such as blocking or leaking, in your blood vessels.
How does an angiogram work?
For the test, a contrast dye is passed into your blood vessels through a long, thin tube called a catheter (KATH-ih-ter). The dye helps your blood vessels show up better on x-rays. Then a series of x-rays of your brain is taken. A device called a fluoroscope (FLOOR-ohskope) immediately projects the x-ray images onto a special screen for viewing.
How do I prepare for the test?
- Do not eat or drink anything, not even water, for 8 to 10 hours before the test.
- Check with your doctor about any routine medicines you take. If your doctor tells you to take your medicine, take it with only a small sip of water.
- Tell your doctor or technician if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish, or if you’ve had an allergic reaction to contrast dye in the past.
- Tell your doctor or technician if you have ever been treated for asthma.
- If you are pregnant, think you might be pregnant, or are breast-feeding, tell your doctor or technician.
What happens during the test?
You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any jewelry, dentures, hair clips, or other metal objects that may block the x-rays. You may be given a mild sedative about 30 to 45 minutes before your test. You will be asked to empty your bladder. You must sign a consent form.
Next, a technician will help you onto the exam table with your arms at your sides. You will be connected to machines that monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels during the test. The site where the catheter will be inserted into your body will be cleaned with alcohol and antiseptic. Then a local anesthetic will be injected to numb that area of your body. You may feel a brief burning sensation.
A tiny cut (incision) will be made into an artery in your thigh, neck, or arm. If an artery in the thigh is used, your groin will be shaved first. A guide wire then is inserted and carefully fed through the artery. Next, the catheter tube is slid over the guide wire into the artery. The catheter is carefully advanced into the main artery above the heart’s left chamber. An x-ray will be taken to make sure the catheter is in the right place.
Next, the contrast dye will be injected. You may have a warm, flushed feeling; get a taste like salt or metal in your mouth; or feel nausea for a few minutes. These sensations are normal, but you should report these or other reactions to your doctor or technician. Now a series of x-ray images will be recorded.
You may receive more than one injection of contrast dye during the test. When the test is over, the catheter will be removed. Pressure will be placed on the incision for about 15 minutes to stop bleeding. After the bleeding stops, a thick dressing will be put on the incision. You’ll be taken to another room, where the nurses will check on you often.
What happens after the test?
You must stay in bed about 6 hours after the test. To prevent bleeding, you must keep the area of the incision as still as possible. For example, if the artery in your thigh was used, you must keep your leg straight.
Your vital signs, your level of alertness, and the incision dressing will be checked often. They will be checked every 15 minutes for the first hour, then every 30 minutes, and finally once an hour for 4 hours.
You will be told to drink plenty of fluids to flush the contrast dye out of your system. If you’re not able to drink, you’ll receive fluids through an IV line.
When to call the doctor
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any of the following:
- Bleeding, bruising, redness, or warmth at the incision site
- Loss of feeling at the incision site
- Changes in vision or loss of vision
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your face, arm, or leg
- Trouble swallowing
- Trouble talking or understanding
- Sudden confusion
- Allergic reactions, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heart beats, or itching
- Severe thirst
- Difficulty urinating
How do I get my results?
Your referring doctor will discuss the results of the test with you. Check with your doctor or testing center about how and when to get your results.
Questions and concerns
It’s normal to have some anxiety before and during a test. But a diagnostic test should not be a frightening experience. Feel free to express concerns about your cerebral angiogram. Please ask the medical staff any questions you may have.
My test appointment
Date: ____________ Time: ____________
Report to: ____________________________
Phone number: _______________________