An angiogram is an intricate procedure that allows a cardiologist (a doctor who specializes in functions of the heart) to guide a thin plastic tube called a catheter to the heart to determine if there is any narrowing or blockage within the coronary arteries (arteries that supply the heart muscle).
Freezing is injected into one side of the patient’s groin area. The patient may feel some pressure in this area as the doctor finds the artery and makes a small incision. Once the incision is made, a sheath is inserted into the artery and acts as a guideline or tunnel for the catheter to follow to the heart. The patient will not feel the catheter as it moves through their artery and into their heart.
At different times during the test, small amounts of contrast media (dye) are injected into the coronary arteries or chambers of the heart in order for sharper images to be taken. As the contrast media is injected, the patient may be asked to take a deep breath and to hold it while a series of x-rays are taken and recorded onto film.
The patient will then be transferred to a stretcher and taken to the recovery area for approximately three to four hours for close observation and routine care.
When the angiogram has been completed, a nurse will remove the sheath and apply firm pressure to the puncture site using a mechanical clamp to stop the bleeding.
The cardiologist will briefly review the results with the patient immediately following the test.
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) or angioplasty is a specialized procedure used to clear blockages within the coronary arteries—arteries that supply the heart muscle. Depending on the location and severity of the blockage and the patient’s specific risk factors, a balloon, as well as a stent or a stent with medications embedded within it, are utilized during the procedure.
A thin plastic tube called a catheter with a special balloon is inserted into the coronary artery at the site of the narrowing. By inflating the balloon, it opens and stretches the artery slowly, which results in improved blood flow to the heart. If required, a metal coil called a stent may be used to keep the coronary artery open. Once the stent is inserted, it is enlarged and pressed against the sides of the blood vessel.
Individuals wishing more information on PCI on angioplasty, can read the Angioplasty: Information for Patients brochure.