What is a Coronary Angiogram?

At Jessie McPherson Private our Cardiac Care Unit specialises in diagnosing and treating cardiac related diseases or conditions. We offer services in acute diagnostic and interventional cardiology as well as cardiac and thoracic surgery.

Coronary Angiogram is a common procedure we carry out. In this article we answer questions you may have if you are coming in for a coronary angiogram.


What is a Coronary Angiogram?

A coronary angiogram is a special procedure that takes dynamic x-ray pictures of the heart. The purpose of this procedure is to see if coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked and to look for abnormalities of the heart muscle or heart valves. Other terms for coronary angiogram are cardiac catheterisation and left heart catheter.

The test is done in a special laboratory called a cardiac catheterisation laboratory (cath lab), which is similar to an operating theatre.

A slender catheter (a thin, hollow plastic tube) is threaded through the largest artery in the body (the aorta) via the wrist or the groin artery until it reaches the coronary arteries of the heart. A special x-ray sensitive dye (contrast) is injected and dynamic x-rays are taken of the blood vessels as the contrast moves through them.


What happens during the Coronary Angiogram procedure?

Before the procedure, a nurse will take your medical history and you will change into a hospital gown. The nurse will prepare you for the procedure by putting in an IV cannula and shaving both sides of the groin and wrist if necessary.

Once in the cath lab, you will lie on a special table. A heart monitor will record your heart beat during the test. The skin on your wrist and both sides of your groin is cleaned with an antiseptic wash and you are covered with sterile drapes.

The doctor injects a small amount of local anaesthetic around the access site (wrist or groin) to numb the area then inserts a small catheter through the skin into the blood vessel. The doctor watches the progress of the catheter via dynamic x-rays transmitted to a television monitor.

You can’t feel the catheter going through the heart because there are not enough nerves in the blood vessels. Once the catheter is in place, a small amount of contrast (x-ray sensitive dye) is injected through it. Further dynamic x-rays are taken as the contrast goes through the blood vessels. You may feel a warm flush or tingling as the contrast is injected. The angiogram lasts for between 30 minutes to 1 hour.


What happens after the Coronary Angiogram?

After the angiogram, you can expect the following:

  • Your blood pressure, pulse, breathing and wound site are regularly checked and recorded.
  • You may be given intravenous fluids for a short time, and you will be encouraged to eat and drink an hour after the procedure.
  • Your movement may be limited and will be dependent on if the angiogram was through the groin or wrist. Your nurse will go through this with you.
  • You will stay in hospital overnight and be reviewed by your cardiologist the following day.
  • If you are not already on a special diet, you will be encouraged to adopt a cholesterol-lowering diet.
  • Follow up appointments with your cardiologist will be made before you are discharged.


Jessie McPherson Private Cardiac Care Unit

Jessie McPherson Private Cardiac Care Unit


What is the long-term outlook after a Coronary Angiogram?

Treatment depends on the diagnosis. Narrowed coronary arteries may possibly be treated during the angiogram by a technique known as angioplasty. A special catheter is threaded through the blood vessels and into the coronary arteries to remove the blockage.

Another surgical option for severely narrowed coronary arteries is a bypass operation. This involves transplanting veins and arteries from other parts of your body to your heart.


A/Prof Sujith Seneviratne

A/Prof Sujith Seneviratne


Where can I learn more?

Jessie McPherson Private accredited cardiologists can be found in the Specialists Directory.

Read more about the Jessie McPherson Private Cardiac Care Unit.

At Jessie McPherson Private we are in the unique position of being able to utilise a comprehensive range of specialist services and state-of-the-art research facilities that Monash Health has to offer, including the MonashHeart Cath Labs. Read more about MonashHeart here.

MonashHeart Coronary Angiogram Patient Brochure
The Heart Foundation Coronary Angiogram Fact Sheet

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