Coronary Angiography

Coronary angiography is a procedure in which a special X-ray of your heart’s arteries (the coronary arteries) is taken to see if they are narrowed or blocked. It is an important test, used when your doctor suspects or knows that you have coronary heart disease.

During coronary angiography, you are given a local anaesthetic and then a catheter (a long thin tube) is put into an artery in your groin, or at the inside of your elbow or near your wrist.

The catheter is moved up the inside of your artery until it reaches your heart.  Most people will not feel any pain or sensation during the test. There are no nerves inside your arteries, so you will not feel the movement of catheters through your body.  A special dye is then injected into your coronary arteries and X-rays are taken. The X-ray image (a ‘coronary angiogram’) gives detailed information about the state of your heart and coronary arteries.  Some people have nausea or chest discomfort when the dye is injected, but this does not last long. A larger injection of dye is given if your heart muscle is to be examined.  This may give a warm feeling in your upper chest first, then over the rest of your body. The feeling may last for about 10 to 15 seconds.

The test will take about 30 to 40 minutes. When the test has been completed, the catheter will be removed and pressure applied to the area where it was inserted. You will be moved to the ward or recovery area to rest in bed for at least four hours. In most circumstances, you will be allowed home after four to six hours. Some people may need to stay in hospital longer so that their symptoms can be monitored further. The X-ray dye passes through your kidneys and is excreted in your urine.

For more information please see the Heart Foundation guide.