What Is an Extremity Arteriography?
An arteriography helps
your doctor understand how your arteries function and if there are any
problems, such as blood clots, injured blood vessels, or an artery disease. Arterio refers to arteries, and graphy refers to the process of
During an arteriography, your doctor injects dye into your
arteries. They then take X-ray images. The dye shows up in the images, allowing
your doctor to see any blockage or narrowing in your arteries.
In extremity arteriography, your doctor examines the arteries
in your extremities. These are your hands, feet, arms, or legs. In some cases,
you might hear a more specific term, such as lower-extremity arteriography
(LEA), which involves your feet or legs. Upper-extremity arteriography involves
your hands or arms.
Why Would I Need an Extremity Arteriography?
Your doctor might order this test if they suspect that you
have a blocked or narrowed blood vessel in your hand, foot, arm, or leg.
Possible symptoms include:
- night cramps
- pain in your hand, foot, arm, or leg
- pain or discomfort when you’re using your arms
- sensitivity to cold in the affected area
- tingling in your feet or toes
- weak or absent pulse in the affected area
How Do I Prepare for an Extremity Arteriography?
Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or think you might be
pregnant. Low-levels of radiation during the X-ray can be dangerous for a
Your doctor will tell you not to eat or drink anything for a
certain period of time before the test. This is typically six to eight hours.
Make sure your doctor knows all of the medications you’re
taking. They might require that you temporarily stop taking some of them before
Let your doctor know if you have any bleeding problems, or
if you’ve experienced allergic reactions to:
- X-ray dye (contrast material)
- iodine substances
At the hospital, you will need to sign a consent form. You
must also change into a hospital gown and remove jewelry from the area being
What Happens During an Extremity Arteriography?
You will lie on your back on an X-ray table. Your doctor
will clean a section of skin. They might also shave this area, which is often
in the groin.
You will receive an injection of numbing medicine in the
cleaned area. This injection might sting, but will stop you from feeling worse
pain during the procedure.
Your doctor will then insert a needle into an artery. They will
thread a thin tube through this needle. From there, they will guide the tube
(called a catheter) through your artery to the area to be examined.
After positioning the catheter, your doctor will inject a
special dye. They will take X-ray images as the dye flows through your
arteries. The contrast material shows up on the X-rays, which help your doctor
see any problems in your arteries.
During this test, your doctor may be able to immediately fix
the problem. Some treatments your doctor might choose to perform during the
- using medicine to dissolve a blood clot
- using a balloon to open an artery (balloon
- holding open an artery with a stent (a small tube)
What Are the Complications Associated with an Extremity Arteriography?
Any time you get an X-ray, you receive some low-level
radiation exposure. However, these levels of radiation aren’t generally
dangerous. If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, talk to your doctor before
undergoing an X-ray. Even low-levels of radiation can be dangerous for a
developing fetus or a baby who is breast-feeding.
Other possible risks, while rare, include:
- allergic reaction to the dye (contrast material)
- blood clot at the insertion site
- blood clot that travels to your lungs
- damage to a blood vessel
- excessive bleeding at the insertion site
- heart attack
- hematoma at the insertion site
- kidney damage from the contrast material
- nerve injury at the insertion site
What Happens After an Extremity Arteriography?
Your doctor will apply pressure to the insertion site for 10
to 15 minutes after the procedure. This should help stop the bleeding.
Keep the leg nearest the insertion site straight for six
hours after the needle has been removed. If the insertion was in one of your
arms instead of your groin, keep that arm straight.
Don’t lift anything heavy or perform any other strenuous
activity for one to two full days after your procedure.
What Do the Results Mean?
This procedure can reveal several issues with your arteries
and blood vessels. These include:
- diseases such as Buerger’s disease, Takayasu’s
disease, and artery diseases
- blood clots
- injured blood vessels
- narrowing of the arteries
Your doctor will review your X-ray images and discuss the
results, as well as any necessary treatments, with you.