Carotid Angiography

Two technicians performing angiography on male patient.Carotid angiography is a type of X-ray test used to view the carotid arteries. These are the large blood vessels that supply your brain with blood. During the test, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is passed into an artery leading to the carotids. Contrast fluid is then injected through the catheter. The fluid makes it easier to see the carotids on the X-rays.

Talk to your doctor about the risks and complications of angiography.

How do I get ready for a carotid angiography?

  • Tell your doctor about any allergies you may have, including any to contrast dye.

  • Be sure your doctor knows about all medicines you take. You may be told to stop taking some or all of them before the test. Tell your doctor about:

    • All prescription medications

    • Over-the-counter medicines that don't need a prescription

    • Any street drugs you may use 

    • Herbs, vitamins, kelp, seaweed, cough syrups, and supplements

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, think you could be pregnant, or are breastfeeding. 

  • Don’t eat or drink after midnight the night before the procedure. If your doctor says to take your normal medicines, swallow them with only small sips of water.

  • Arrange for an adult family member or friend to drive you home.

What happens during carotid angiography?

  • An IV (intravenous) line is started in your arm. You may also be given a medicine that helps you relax (sedative).

  • You’re given an injection to numb the site where the catheter will be inserted. This is usually the groin area.

  • A small puncture is made into the artery, and the catheter is inserted. Using X-rays, the catheter is then carefully guided through the artery.

  • Contrast fluid is injected through the catheter into the artery. You may feel warmth or pressure in your legs, back, neck, or head. You will need to lie still as X-rays are taken of the carotids. You may be asked to hold your breath during injections. When the procedure is complete, the catheter is removed.

What happens after carotid angiography?

  • You’ll be taken to a recovery area.

  • A nurse will apply pressure to the insertion site for about 10 minutes.

  • You’ll then need to lie flat for a few hours.

  • Your doctor will discuss the results with you soon after the procedure.

Once you are home:

  • Don’t drive for 24 hours.

  • Avoid walking, bending, lifting, and taking stairs for 24 hours.

  • Avoid lifting anything over 5 pounds for 7 days.

Be sure to follow any other instructions from your doctor.

When should I call my health care provider?

Call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher lasting for 24 to 48 hours

  • Bleeding, swelling, or a lump at the insertion site

  • Sharp or increasing pain at the insertion site

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Leg pain, numbness, or a cold leg or foot

  • Severe headache, visual problems, or trouble speaking

  • Any other symptoms your provider instructed you to report based on your medical condition

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