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Your guide to a coronary angiogram

A video by the British Heart Foundation showing what to expect during a coronary angiogram. This video is part of a free online course on heart health
This film will show you what to expect if you are having a coronary angiogram, sometimes called a cardiac catheterisation. My name is Alan Price. I’m from Derbyshire. And I’m here today for a cardiac angiogram. The procedure today is straightforward and will explain a little more– in a little more detail about what happens next. It is a straightforward operation and no reason to worry at all. I’m Jadeep Sarma, I’m a consultant interventions cardiologist at the North West Heart Centre and the Wythenshawe Hospital in South Manchester. So a coronary angiogram is x-ray-based set of pictures the we take of the heart, and in particular, the coronary arteries.
The procedure is done under a local anaesthetic, either into the skin around the wrist artery, or sometimes into the skin around the top of the groyne , depending on which artery we need to use. We do more and more of these procedures using the wrist artery these days, because we want to get people up and about. It adds convenience for the patients. What we’ll do is we’ll let that work it’s way in while we’re setting all our other equipment up, OK? When you have coronary heart disease, fatty deposits build up in the inner walls of your coronary arteries, causing narrowing or blockages which restrict blood flow to your heart.
A coronary angiogram helps identify if you have these narrowings, and shows how severe it is. A catheter, thin, flexible tube, is passed into your artery through your groyne or arm, and then up to your heart. A special dye, called contrast, will then be passed through the catheter so that your arteries show on the x-ray. A series of x-rays will then be taken to locate any narrowing in your arteries. We put a very small needle into the artery, again, either the groyne or the wrist, and use that needle to feed a tiny wire into the artery. That allows us to put a plastic tube over the wire, removing the needles.
And then that plastic tube allows us to inject liquid dye into the arteries, allowing us to see the course of the arteries on the x-ray machine. What we’re doing now is just manipulating the catheter into the right position to take the picture, in this case, of the right coronary artery. People generally feel a little bit of pressure, but not discomfort when the tubing is being moved inside beyond the arteries. Often within the arm, sometimes around the leg area. Some people complain of feeling hot or flushed when the dye is being injected. But generally speaking, most people aren’t aware of the fact that their heart, arteries are being filmed, and the x-rays are actually being taken. Very good, indeed.
There are few irregularities, but nothing untoward. A diagnostic angiogram is a very straightforward and very well organised procedure. And normally, it would take in the region of 10 to 15 minutes to get the pictures. Most people who have a diagnostic procedure, do so as a day case, so they can go home that afternoon or that evening. The main complication people suffer from is bruising or bleeding from the point of access, either in through the wrist or the groyne, where the tubing is inserted. So overall, the risk of any major complications is extremely low. Well done. That’s good. Having had the angiogram, I’m sitting here now feeling no bad ill effects whatsoever. I could go home two hours after it.
It’s As simple as that. My hopes for the future are to return to the outdoor lifestyle I led, which will be walking in the hills. And I see no reason why that’s not achievable. Heart disease is still the single biggest killer in the UK. But for over 50 years, we’ve tirelessly pioneered research that has helped transform the lives of people living with heart and the circulatory conditions. Join our fight for every heartbeat in the UK. Every pound raised, every minute of your time, and every donation to our shops will help make a difference.

Do you have a Coronary Angiogram coming up? Watch this video to find out what to expect.

You can find also out more about coronary angiography and how this common technique is used to detect areas of reduced circulatory flow and/or complete blockage in the heart, in Professor Jon Gibbons’ second video on Heart attacks in Week 2.

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Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

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