Alternative names
Angiogram; Angiography


Arteriography is a procedure in which a contrast material that can be seen using x-ray equipment is injected into one of the arteries, allowing your health care provider to see the vessel.

How the test is performed

An arteriogram can be used to examine almost any artery, including those of the head, kidneys, heart, or lungs. It is sometimes used as part of a procedure to repair the blood vessels called balloon Angioplasty .

See the following for information on these more specific types of tests which examine the blood vessels in the same way:

  • Cerebral Angiography (head)  
  • Extremity angiography (arm or leg)  
  • Renal angiography (kidneys)  
  • Pulmonary angiography (lungs)  
  • Lymphangiography (lymph vessels)  
  • Right heart ventriculography (looking at the right side of the heart)  
  • Left heart ventriculography (looking at the left side of the heart)  
  • Coronary angiography (looking at the vessels of the heart)  
  • Aortic angiography or aortography (looking at the aorta, the major artery from the heart)  
  • Eye angiography  
  • Cardiac catheterization

The study is carried out in a laboratory by a trained cardiologist or radiologist and technicians or nurses. First the doctor will need to insert an intravenous (IV) line into one of the blood vessels in your arm, chest, neck, or groin.

A catheter is then inserted through the IV and into your blood vessels using an X-ray machine that produces “live” pictures. Once the catheter is placed into the blood vessel of interest, contrast material is injected and pictures are taken. Sometimes it takes a long time for the doctors to get the catheter into just the right spot. It can be compared to threading a needle for sewing.

How to prepare for the test
See Cardiac catheterization.

How the test will feel

You will generally feel some discomfort at the site where the IV is placed. Most blood vessels do not have nerve endings, so you probably won’t feel the catheter inside of your body.

Depending upon the type of arteriogram being performed, you may experience a variety of symptoms when the doctor injects the contrast material. For example, with an arteriogram of the head (cerebral arteriogram), you may feel a brief flushing feeling in your head.

If the IV is placed in your groin, you will usually be asked to lie flat on your back for a few hours after the test to avoid bleeding. This may cause some mild back discomfort.

Why the test is performed

The reasons for this test depend on the type of arteriogram that will be performed.

In general, arteriograms give the best pictures of the body’s blood vessels. Arteriograms are used to make specific diagnoses and to help determine what the best treatment is in a particular case. Often, the treatment itself can be performed using the same type of catheters used in the arteriogram, instead of requiring a more extensive surgery in an additional procedure.

Normal Values

These depend on the reason for the test.

What abnormal results mean

This test can show whether and where arteries are blocked; blockages in different arteries indicate different conditions.

What the risks are

The risks for this procedure depend on the type of arteriogram performed. You should ask your doctor about the risks before you agree to have the test performed.

  • In general, there is a risk of bleeding, infection, and pain at the IV site.  
  • There is always a very small risk that the soft plastic catheters could actually damage the blood vessels.  
  • Blood clots could form on the catheters and later block blood vessels elsewhere in the body.  
  • The contrast material could damage the kidneys (particularly in patients with Diabetes).

Other risks may be present as well.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Armen E. Martirosyan, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.