A cerebral angiogram or arteriogram is a medical imaging study which is used to visualize the blood supply to and in the brain. This test is used to look for issues like ruptured or leaking blood vessels, cerebral aneurysms, narrowed blood vessels, clots, and brain tumors. The procedure takes place in a hospital or outpatient radiology clinic, and lasts several hours. Patients are usually asked to wait after the procedure so that they can be monitored for any signs of side effects, and clinics usually request that patients arrange a ride home. Patients should keep this information in mind when scheduling a cerebral angiogram, and plan on dedicating all day to having the procedure done.
In a cerebral angiogram procedure, the patient is usually lightly sedated, and the head is strapped in place to prevent movements which could interfere with the test. Heart and blood pressure monitors are attached to keep track of the patient's health during the procedure, and the patient may be connected to an intravenous drip which provides hydrating fluids and fast access to the patient's venous system in the event of a medical emergency. Once the patient is settled in, a catheter is threaded into the body through the groin, and a radio-opaque contrast dye is injected.
As the dye moves through the arteries which supply blood to the brain, it shows up on an x-ray. The doctor can follow the real time progress of the contrast dye through the brain, looking for signs of medical problems and issues with the vascular network in the brain. If the patient's case calls for it, interventions can also take place during a cerebral angiogram, as when coils are placed in specific locations to resolve cerebral aneurysms.
After the procedure is finished, the patient is allowed to rest and then permitted to go home. The results of the cerebral angiogram may be read during the procedure by a doctor, or forwarded to the patient's physician for analysis and further examination, depending on the situation. The contrast dye will be expressed from the body naturally as it metabolizes.
Getting a cerebral angiogram can be uncomfortable. Patients sometimes experience a brief burning sensation as the contrast dye is injected, and they do not enjoy lying still for the procedure. The procedure also carries a risk of an allergic reaction to the contrast dye, making it important for patients to disclose known allergies in advance of the procedure, and there is a potential risk of stroke as a result of a cerebral angiogram procedure as well. Patients on certain medications may have additional risks from the procedure and in some cases a doctor may request that a patient stop using a particular medication for several days in advance of the procedure.