Coronary Angiography & Stenting

What Is a Coronary Angiogram?

Coronary angiography is a minimally invasive procedure performed by passing thin tubes up round to the heart and injecting a contrast agent into the heart arteries. X-rays are then used to identify any potential narrowings or stenosis that may be blocking the flow of blood to the heart muscle.  We access the heart either via the large blood vessels at the top of the leg, or more frequently via the wrist in the radial artery. The advantage of going through the wrist means that the risk of bleeding complications is lower, and you can get up and about much earlier after the procedure iis finished. 


Why Am I Having It Done?

You will have been referred for this test if there is a significant concern that you may have important coronary disease.  If so, the artery may need to be opened using a small balloon and a metal mesh called a stent. This procedure is called coronary angioplasty, also known as PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention). The purpose is to restore the blood supply to the heart muscle to allow it to work normally again.


What Are the Risks?


Although these are safe procedures in the vast majority of patients, because we are placing equipment in and around the heart there is always a very small risk of complications. The most serious complications related to the procedure include stroke, death or a heart attack. Other potential complications include bruising at the point we where access the heart (either at the wrist or the top of the leg), bleeding, or an allergic reaction to the contrast dye that is given. Sometimes, if you have impaired kidney function we will need to monitor your blood tests for several days afterwards as there can be some deterioration following the procedure.  For a coronary angiogram alone the overall risk of complications is about 1 in 600 and for a stent insertion is 1 in 200, although it may be more than this in certain high-risk situations. Your doctor will discuss this with you in detail beforehand. If you have any concerns about any of these risks it is important to highlight this to the healthcare professional looking after you so that these can be clarified before you come for your procedure. It should be remembered that if you have severe disease affecting your heart then the risks of not treating it might be substantially higher than the small potential risks from the procedure. 

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