Diagnostic Tests

What is a Carotid Angiogram?

A carotid angiogram is a procedure to look for any blockages and/or narrowing in the carotid/neck arteries that supply blood to the brain. If there are blockages, this procedure is used to determine how severe the blockages are and to help guide treatment choices.

What to Expect Prior to the Procedure

  • You will be contacted by a nurse from the Cardiac Cath Lab 1-2 business days prior to your procedure to review health history and instructions. The questions we ask are necessary to assure proper medical care. The phone call will take approximately 10-15 minutes.
  • You will be asked about current medications, their dosages, and any allergies you have.
  • Inform the nurse if you are taking Warfarin/Coumadin. Please ask when to stop taking Warfarin/Coumadin.
  • Please inform the nurse of any allergies especially to IVP dye or Contrast.
  • Specific instructions concerning your medications will be reviewed.
  • Blood work is required prior to your procedure.
  • Often Plavix (clopidogrel bisulfate) is started a few days prior to your procedure.
  • Aspirin is also frequently started before your procedure.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.

Read and print out full instructions.

What to Expect the Day of Procedure

  • You will be instructed on which medications you may take with water.
  • Often blood pressure and heart medicines are not taken on the day of this procedure.
  • Arrive at the given time; there is no need to arrive early.
  • You will meet several people who will be your health care team.
  • The procedure, including benefits and risks involved, will be discussed with you.

What to Expect During the Procedure

  • Since we are checking circulation (carotid artery) blood flow to your brain, sedation may not be used so we can continually monitor your mental status.
  • Your blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level will be monitored frequently.
  • The procedure is performed under sterile conditions.
  • Medication will be used to numb the entry site (either the groin, neck, or elbow area). The best site will be determined by the physician.
    How it feels—
    There is some stinging and/or burning as the numbing medicine is placed.
  • A small hollow tube (catheter) will be placed in the above artery and then directed to the carotid arteries under x-ray type guidance.
    How it feels—There is some pressure at the site. No sensations are felt in the carotid arteries.
  • Contrast/IVP dye will be injected into the carotid arteries and digital pictures from multiple angles will be taken to look for any blockages/narrowings.
    How it feels—
    There is a warm sensation and/or burning in the neck for about 30 seconds.
  • Test takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • If there is a severe blockage that would be beneficial to fix with the balloon and/or stent, you would undergo that procedure. Learn more about these procedures.
  • Once the procedure is over, the tube in your artery will be pulled out and pressure will be held.
  • The physician will talk with you and a family member per your request.

What to Expect After the Procedure

  • Monitored for 2-6 hours after the procedure.
  • If you undergo angioplasty/stenting of the carotid artery, you will stay overnight in the hospital.
  • You will be on bed rest for 2-6 hours after the procedure.
  • One visitor at a time will be allowed to sit with you.
  • Before you go home, discharge instructions will be reviewed with you and a responsible adult.
  • You must arrange a ride home accompanied by a responsible adult. Once home, a responsible adult must be with you for 3 hours.

Common Experiences When You Are Home

  • Tiredness on the day of procedure
  • Tenderness at the procedure site
  • A small bump (size of a quarter) at the procedure site
  • Some bruising

What You Should Report Immediately

Upon discharge, we will provide you with a phone number to contact us if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe discomfort at the insertion site
  • Bleeding at the insertion site
  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Redness or signs of infection at the insertion site

Back to Types of Cardiac Catheterization Procedures

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