This is a procedure in which a small, flexible tube called a “catheter” is inserted through a nick in the skin into a blood vessel. This is most commonly performed to look for blockages in the arteries. Once positioned within the artery, a liquid contrast agent is injected through the catheter and a live X-ray is obtained to watch the contrast flow through the vessel. Images are obtained to create an accurate depiction of the diseased vessels. Once complete, the catheter is removed. Often, arterial blockages can be treated during the angiogram using balloon angioplasty, stents or atherectomy, as described below.
Stents are metallic devices placed on the inside of diseased blood vessels. They are designed to push open a narrowed part of the vessel and hold it open.
Stents are made in many sizes and materials, and can be very useful in managing Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Stents are typically placed during an angiogram and are left in the body permanently.
Atherectomy is also performed during an angiogram and involves placing an atherectomy catheter across a diseased arterial segment. The device removes the plaque from the vessel wall, creating a larger opening for blood to flow through. The device and the plaque are removed from the body before the end of the procedure.