Angiogram and Intervention

What an Angiogram and Peripheral Vascular Intervention Can Mean for Your Health

If your cardiologist suspects that there might be an important vessel blocked, than you could take into consideration having an angiogram or even a vascular intervention to solve the problem.

The angiogram is an invasive procedure, since it involves the insertion of a catheter inside  a blood vessel with the purpose of visualizing the heart and the major arteries. Sometimes, when the patient has an improper diet, smokes or has an unhealthy life style, the coronary arteries can narrow in the presence of fatty tissue. The importance of vascular intervention is that sometimes, when the amount of fatty tissue gets to big, the artery can get blocked and the blood won’t be able to irrigate the tissues in the area anymore. If this happens in the limbs, can lead to pain and numbness; if it happens in the coronary system, then even a heart attack may occur. In worse to worst cases, this can provoke arrhythmia, necrosis and death.

Before getting an angiogram you must know what to expect from this intervention. First you must be aware that it involves radiation exposure. Even if the amount is not significant, there are sequential X-rays involved. If you are pregnant, or you are nursing a baby, the doctor should be informed, so that he decides if this information is the proper one for you. Next, any bleeding problems you have or had need to be announced, along with allergies to medication, iodine or shellfish.

As the angiogram is not a usual procedure, it is better to know the steps in advance so you will be psychologically prepared. Before the procedure, the cardiologist will ask you to fast for a period of time (from several hours to an entire night). Then, before you take the position on the operating table (usually lying on your back), you will need to empty your bladder. The substance that will first be injected into you will be an anesthetic, designed  for relaxation. After this the area that will suffer the procedure will need to be anesthetized locally. Following that, the catheter will be inserted through a major artery, in the limbs or groin and with the add of fluoroscopy, it will reach the blocked artery. The next step is to inject the contrast substance, which has the role to guide the cardiologist through the heart chambers, showing on the X-ray images the level of fatty tissue that overburdens the blood vessels. This is the angiogram and with the date collected by it, the next step will be decided. This would mean inserting a wire with a deflated balloon at one end, and getting it to the affected area. Once there, the balloon will be inflated in order to press on the local fatty tissues and compress it. After the artery has been enlarged, the balloon can be extracted.

Usually, after this type of operation, the artery is blocked again in about six months, preventable by changing the diet with a more balanced one and reducing the stress factors in the patients lifestyle. Another option is to add a stent in the artery after the balloon has been removed. This stent is usually covered with tissue soon, but it doesn’t always guarantee the safety of the patient. With no real changes in the patient’s diet and lifestyle, the problem will probably reoccur in another artery, sometimes less, but other times more important.