Carotid Angiogram: Before Your Procedure

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Catheter put into blood vessel at groin and moved up to neck, with detail of catheter in carotid artery in neck

What is a carotid angiogram?

A carotid angiogram is a test to look at the large blood vessels in your neck that carry blood to your brain. These are called carotid arteries. The doctor puts a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in your groin or arm. You may have this test to see if a carotid artery is narrowed.

During the procedure, the doctor moves the catheter through the blood vessel into your neck. Then the doctor injects a dye into the catheter. The dye flows into the blood vessel. A picture of your carotid artery shows up on a video screen. The doctor can look at the screen to see any narrowing of the artery.

If your carotid artery is narrowed, the doctor may use the catheter to place a stent in the artery. A stent is a small, expandable tube that presses against the walls of the artery. The doctor uses the catheter to insert a tiny balloon in the narrowed area and inflates it. The balloon presses the fatty buildup (plaque) against the walls of the artery. This makes more room for blood to flow. The doctor then puts a stent in the artery. The stent is left in the artery. It keeps it open and helps blood flow.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your procedure. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
    Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
    Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
    You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
    The procedure will take about 90 minutes.
    After the procedure, pressure may be applied to the area where the catheter was put into your blood vessel. This will help prevent bleeding. A small device may also be used to close the blood vessel. You may have a bandage or a compression device on the catheter site.
    Nurses will check your heart rate and blood pressure. The nurse will also check the catheter site for bleeding.
    If the catheter was put in your groin, you will need to lie still and keep your leg straight for up to a few hours. The nurse may put a weighted bag on your leg to keep it still.
    If the catheter was put in your arm, you may be able to sit up right away. But you will need to keep your arm still for at least 1 hour.
    You may have a bruise or a small lump where the catheter was put in your blood vessel. This is normal and will go away.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.