The coronary arteries supply heart muscles with blood. They can become blocked by a plaque (buildup of cells), fat or other substances, reducing the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. A coronary angiography is used to detect blockages in the coronary arteries by using a special contrast dye or an x-ray.
A test can tell not only if a patient’s coronary arteries are clogged or have become narrowed, but also where and by how much. It is important to detect blockages because they can cause chest pains or even a heart attack if left untreated. Testing helps doctors to organize a patient-specific treatment plan specific to a patient's needs and conditions, which may include an angioplasty, a stent or a coronary artery by-pass. Coronary angioplasty may be performed if a patient has :
- Had an instance of angina
- Unstable angina
- Aortic stenosis
- Atypical chest pains
- Received abnormal heart stress test results
- A high risk of coronary artery disease before surgery
- Had a heart failure diagnosis
- Had a heart attack diagnosis
How is it performed?
- The patient will stay awake so that they are able to follow the doctor’s instructions but will take medicine to remain relaxed during the procedure.
- Often, a coronary angiography is performed with a cardiac catheterization procedure.
- The patient needs to lie on his/her back on a movable table near a camera.
- A doctor will numb an area on the arm, groin, upper thigh or neck and insert a thin tube (catheter) into a peripheral artery and direct it towards the heart.
- After the catheter is in place, the doctor will inject a special solution which passes through the catheter to highlight blockages. All blood vessels and heart chambers can then be seen on X-ray images.
- By studying X-ray images, the doctor can see any problems with the patient’s coronary arteries.