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Pulmonary Angiography

Tell the doctor or technologist

  • If you have any allergies to food or medications.

  • What medications, herbs, or supplements you take.

  • If you are, or may be, pregnant.

  • If you have an irregular heart rhythm.

Pulmonary angiography is an X-ray of the blood vessels that supply the lungs. It is used to find a blood clot (pulmonary embolism) in these blood vessels. The procedure is done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Preparing for the Procedure

  • Do not eat or drink anything for 6 hours before the procedure.

  • Change into a hospital gown. Remove hair clips, jewelry, dentures, and other metal items that could show up on the X-ray.

  • Go to the bathroom to empty your bladder just before the procedure begins.

  • Plan to have a friend or relative available to drive you home. 

During the Procedure

  • Lie down on the X-ray table. An IV (intravenous) line is put into your hand or arm to give you fluids or medications.

  • The skin over your groin is numbed with local anesthetic. A needle is then inserted into a blood vessel near the groin. The needle is then replaced with a catheter (thin, flexible tube).

  • Using X-ray images as a guide, the radiologist moves the catheter through blood vessels and the heart to the pulmonary artery (artery that carries blood to the lungs).

  • Contrast medium (X-ray dye) is injected into the artery through the catheter. This material helps the blood flow in the lungs show up better on X-rays. You may feel warmth when the contrast material is injected.

  • X-ray images are then taken. Remain as still as you can while the X-rays are taken. You may be asked to hold your breath for 10 to 25 seconds at a time. The technologist will tell you when to hold your breath and when to breathe.

  • After the X-rays are taken, the catheter is removed. Pressure will be applied to the insertion site for 5 to 10 minutes to stop bleeding.

  • The whole procedure may take around 1 hour.

Potential Risks and Complications 

  • Infection or bruising around the catheter insertion site

  • Problems due to contrast medium, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

  • Damage to a blood vessel by the catheter

  • Pulmonary embolism due to release of blood clots from blood vessel walls

After the Procedure

You may remain in the hospital for a few hours after the procedure. When you go home:

  • Care for the puncture site as directed. This includes keeping the leg on that side straight for 6 hours after the procedure.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the contrast fluid from your system.


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