Angiography is a medical imaging study, in which blood vessels (usually arteries) are imaged on X-rays using contrast fluid. The resulting image is an angiogram. This examination is done in order to demonstrate a defect in a blood vessel and to determine the severity of it.
Angiography provides accurate information about the actual condition of the blood vessels. With this examination, defects can be detected in the blood vessels, such as:
- Narrowing of an artery (stenosis), as a result of atherosclerosis.
- Dilation of an artery (aneurysm).
- Abnormal connections between blood vessels.
Blood vessels can't be seen on ordinary X-rays. Therefore, they are made visible by means of contrast fluid. This agent is injected during the making of the X-rays. For this purpose, it’s necessary that a tube is placed into the blood vessel, through which the contrast fluid can be injected. The contrast agent then spreads through the bloodstream in the blood vessels, and so the blood vessels become visible.
The doctor inserts a catheter (tube) into the blood vessels. This is usually done through an artery in the groin or wrist. The patient will first receive a local anesthesia and is covered with a sterile sheet. The doctor then pricks a hollow needle into the artery. Through this needle, the catheter is inserted into the blood vessel. When the catheter is inserted in the right place, the contrast fluid is injected. Then, X-ray images are made. The examination takes approximately an hour.
- Angiography was developed in 1927 by the Portuguese neurologist and opera composer Egas Moniz.
- The term ‘angiography’ is derived from the Greek words angeion (blood vessel) and graphein (writing, drawing).
- Angiography of the heart is called coronary catheterization (coronary angiography).