Is a Cerebral Angiography?
Cerebral angiography, also called cerebral arteriogram, is a
diagnostic test that can help your doctor find blockages in the blood vessels
of your head and neck. These blockages can lead to a stroke or aneurysm.
Using the catheter (a long, flexible tube), your doctor will
inject a contrast dye into your carotid artery. The carotid artery is the blood
vessel in your neck that carries blood to your brain. The contrast material
helps the X-ray create a clear picture of your blood vessels so that your
doctor can identify any blockages.
A newer technique for cerebral angiography is called intra-arterial
digital subtraction angiography. It’s commonly used because it requires less
contrast dye and smaller catheters.
Is Cerebral Angiography Used?
Not everyone who may have arterial blockages needs cerebral
angiography. It’s usually performed only if your doctor needs more information
to plan your treatment after noninvasive testing. That’s because it’s invasive
and carries some risks.
Cerebral angiography can help diagnose:
- an aneurysm (a rupture in the wall of an artery)
- arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)
- an arteriovenous malformation (a mass of dilated
interconnected blood vessels)
- vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation)
- blood clots
- tears in the lining of an artery
Cerebral angiography may also help your doctor figure out the
cause of certain symptoms, including:
- severe headaches
- loss of memory
- slurred speech
- blurred or double vision
- weakness or numbness
- loss of balance or coordination
for Cerebral Angiography
You may not be able to eat or drink after midnight prior to the
procedure. Talk to your doctor about how you should prepare.
Before the procedure, your doctor may ask you to stop taking medications
that can increase bleeding risk. These include:
- blood thinners
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Some people are allergic to the contrast material used during the
procedure. Tell your doctor if you have any allergies, including allergies to
anesthesia. Your doctor may prescribe anti-allergy medications before the test.
Certain illnesses and medical conditions can increase your risk
of complications during the test. The contrast material can cause temporary
damage to your kidneys if you have diabetes or kidney disease. Women who are pregnant
or think they might be should ask about radiation exposure during the test.
If you’re breastfeeding, pump your milk before the procedure and
don’t breastfeed again for at least 24 hours. This will give the contrast
material time to leave your body.
Happens During Cerebral Angiography?
Your healthcare team for this test may include a radiologist, a
neurosurgeon who specializes in interventional radiology, and a radiology
Most people are sedated during the procedure. Others — especially
children — are given general anesthesia. This is because you must be still for
the test to be effective. The sedation will help you feel relaxed and you may
fall asleep. During the procedure, your head will be stabilized with a strap,
tape, or sandbags. It’s very important to lie still during the test.
Your doctor will sterilize an area of your groin. They’ll insert
a catheter and thread it through your blood vessels and into your carotid
artery, which is located in your neck.
A contrast dye will flow through the catheter and into the
artery, where it will travel to the blood vessels in your brain. You may have a
warm feeling as the contrast dye flows through your body. Multiple head and
neck X-rays will be taken.
Afterward, your doctor will remove the catheter and place a
dressing over the insertion site. The entire procedure usually takes one to
Are the Risks of Cerebral Angiography?
Cerebral angiography carries some rare but potentially serious
risks. They include:
- stroke (if the catheter loosens plaque inside a
- damage to the blood vessels (including
puncturing an artery)
- blood clots (which can form around the catheter
Be sure to carefully discuss all risks with your doctor.
Up After Cerebral Angiography
After the procedure, you’ll go to a recovery room where you’ll
lie still for two to six hours before going home. At home, be careful not to
lift heavy objects or overexert yourself for at least one week.
Call your doctor immediately if you experience the following:
- signs of a stroke (including slurred speech,
weakness or numbness, or vision problems)
- redness and swelling at the catheter insertion
- chest pain
A radiologist will interpret the results of your test. Your
doctor will share these results with you and discuss follow-up tests or