Angiography is an important type of medical procedure in which the inside or lumen of the arteries and veins is visualized for the cardiologist. While any artery or vein may be the focus of the procedure, it is usually used to visualize the coronary arteries, coronary veins and chambers of the heart. However, it is also used with special interest in the lungs to determine if there is a blockage or blood clot (embolism) in the vasculature of the lungs. However, there are a number of possible reasons why a patient may undergo angiography, commonly called an angiogram. This paper will discuss the reasons why a patient may receive this procedure, the benefits of the procedure, and the risks associated with it. It will also compare the risks of the procedure with sonography.
Angiography may refer to an arteriogram which looks at the arteries, or a venogram, which is specific to the veins. Oftentimes, both structures are visualized. The term angiogram may refer to either of these tests though. Blood vessels do not show up on traditional x-rays. Therefore, a contrast medium must be injected into the blood vessels in order to make them opaque and therefore, able to be filmed. Since coronary angiograms are the most commonly utilized type of these procedures, the term is often referred to as a “cardiac catheterization.” The term is often shortened to “cardiac cath” in medical slang. During a cardiac cath procedure, the patient is sedated and a catheter is inserted into an artery. While the radial artery of the wrist may be used, the femoral artery in the groin is often chosen. After a catheter is inserted, it is advanced to the coronary arteries or veins. An opaque dye is then injected, highlighting the structures of the heart. X-rays are taken at the time. In addition, a cardiologist oversees the procedure and examines the arteries and veins on a screen, looking for blockages and abnormalities (National Health Service, 2015).

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Again, the procedure may also be used in the lungs and other parts of the body. For instance, the physician may want to examine the vasculature of the legs to determine if a blood clot is present. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a common problem in individuals who smoke or have mobility issues. If the blood clot breaks loose, it may lead to a heart attack or stroke. Most commonly the procedure is used to diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD). It helps the physician determine the extent of narrowing in the coronary arteries of the heart; extensive CAD can lead to a heart attack (American Heart Association, 2015).

Sonography may be utilized instead. There are some advantages and disadvantages to this. The disadvantages are that it does not produce as clear pictures for the cardiologist to examine. However, the risks of allergic reaction are decreased. It does not use the same type of dyes that are used for angiogram. Rather, it uses sound waves to produce the pictures. As a result, individuals who are allergic to dyes may have this procedure (National Institutes of Health, 2015).

Angiography refers to a procedure in which a dye is utilized to highlight the veins and arteries of a person. X-rays are then taken of the blood vessels in order for a physician to diagnose a number of medical conditions. Mostly, this procedure is used as part of cardiac catherization. There are risks associated with it; most of these risks are related to the dye utilized for the procedure. However, it is a commonly performed medical procedure. In individuals who are allergic to die, sonography may be performed instead. Both procedures still require the placement of a catheter in an artery though.

  • American Heart Association. (2015). Cardiac catheterization. Retrieved from:
  • National Institutes of Health. (2015). Intravascular ultrasound. Retrieved from:
  • National Health Service. (2015). Angiography. Retrieved from: