Carotid Angiography

Overview

Carotid angiography is a procedure to examine the large blood vessels in your neck that carry oxygen-rich blood to your brain – the carotid arteries – for problems like aneurysms and blockages. 

In an angiography, your doctor inserts a catheter (a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end) into a blood vessel in your arm, leg or groin and threads it up to your carotid arteries. The process is also called an arteriogram.

Doctors use carotid angiography to:

  • Assess your risk for a stroke
  • Find out whether you need additional treatments
  • Look for fatty deposits (plaque) in your carotid arteries
  • Perform other minimally invasive treatments, like angioplasty and stenting, to open a blocked carotid artery

What to Expect

Before your carotid angiography, your doctor will talk with you about any questions or concerns you have and give you instructions on how to prepare for the procedure. 

During your carotid angiography, you’ll have an IV and ECG patches attached to your chest to monitor your heartbeat. Your doctor may give you a mild sedative to help you relax, but you’ll still be awake. 

Your doctor will insert a short, hollow plastic tube (introducer sheath) into a blood vessel in your leg, arm or groin, then guide the catheter using a special X-ray machine. You’ll have a small puncture mark but no incision. Then your doctor will inject contrast dye into the catheter, which shows any spots where your arteries are narrow or blocked or where you may have an aneurysm. The process takes about an hour.

Recovery

In most cases, you’ll need to stay at the hospital for the rest of the day and possibly overnight. When you go home, have a friend or family member drive you. Your doctor will talk with you about follow-up care and tell you when you can return to work and other normal activities.

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