Angiography - aorta

Alternative names
Aortic angiography; Aortography

Aortic angiography is a study of the aorta, the body’s largest artery, using a contrast medium (dye) and a rapid succession of X-ray imaging to show blood flow.

How the test is performed

A mild sedative is given prior to the test. An intravenous catheter is started in an arm for the administration of medication during the procedure. A radiologist or cardiologist inserts the catheter through a small incision in an artery in the arm or groin after cleansing the site and numbing it with a local anesthetic.

The catheter is then carefully threaded into the aorta via the arm or leg artery using X-ray images called fluoroscopy to guide the insertion. When the catheter is in place, dye is injected to make the aorta visible.

How to prepare for the test

Food and fluids are restricted 6 to 8 hours before the test, which will take place in the hospital. Admission the night before the test may be required. If not, you will be admitted as an outpatient or inpatient the morning of the procedure. An explanation of aortic angiography and its risks will be provided by a health care provider, and a witnessed, signed consent for the procedure is usually required.

A mild sedative is typically given 30 minutes before the procedure, which may last from one to several hours. You will wear hospital clothing.

Infants and children:
The physical and psychological preparation you can provide to your child for this or any medical procedure depends on your child’s age, interests, previous experiences, and level of trust. For age-specific information on this topic, see the following:

How the test will feel

Aortic angiography takes place in a radiology department or cardiac diagnostics laboratory. You are given a sedative to relax before the procedure, but you are awake and able to follow instructions during the test. You are on a stretcher during the test.

An incision is made into an artery in your arm, neck, or groin for threading the catheter into the aorta. You will be given local anesthesia before the catheter is inserted, so the only sensation is pressure at the site. Sometimes a feeling of warmth occurs after the contrast media is injected. You may experience discomfort from staying still a long time.

Once the procedure is completed, the puncture site in the arm or groin will be compressed for 10 to 15 minutes to prevent bleeding. You will need to keep that arm or leg straight for up to 4 hours after the procedure to prevent additional bleeding.

Generally, normal activity may be resumed the day after the procedure.

Why the test is performed
The procedure is performed when abnormal conditions of the aorta are suspected.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may indicate aortic stenosis, aortic regurgitation, and abdominal aortic aneurysm. Additional conditions under which the test may be performed include aortic dissection.

What the risks are

Risks of aortic angiography include cardiac arrhythmias, Cardiac tamponade, trauma to the artery, Low Blood pressure, infection, embolism from a blood clot at the tip of the catheter, reaction to contrast media, hemorrhage (profuse bleeding), Stroke , and Heart attack .

At the puncture site into the artery, there are risks of bruising, bleeding, infection, aneurysm (bulging) of the vessel, occlusion (blocking) of the vessel, and fistula formation (a connection between an artery and vein).

Special considerations

This procedure may be combined with a left heart catheterization to image the chambers of the heart.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by Potos A. Aagen, M.D.

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