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How to Prepare for Angiogram

Frank Higgins, Director of Operations for American Endovascular, has been an X-ray technician for over 30 years. Throughout his career, Frank has been involved with thousands of endovascular procedures. He recently addressed the most common questions and concerns patients have as they prepare for an angiogram.

Q: What is an angiogram?

A: An angiogram is a diagnostic test performed by the physicians at American Endovascular. Doctors inject contrast material into your arteries and use live X-rays to see blockages or narrowings in the arteries in your arms and/or legs.

Q: What should I expect on the day of my angiogram?

A: When you come into American Endovascular, you’ll check in with the front desk. Then our nurses will take you through the pre-procedure process. This includes taking your vital signs, a history of your medications, and your medical and surgical history. From there, they will start an IV. When the pre-procedure process has been completed, your doctor will review the procedure with you and answer any questions you may have. You’ll then sign a consent form and be brought into the procedure room.

Q: What happens during an angiogram?

A: Once you’re brought into the procedure room, you’ll lie down on a flat table and be hooked up to a cardiac monitor so we can keep an eye on your vital signs. Then one of our surgical technicians will begin prepping and sterilizing the access point on your body. Usually, the entry point will be in your groin. However, depending on your symptoms, your doctor may decide to use your foot. After the area is sterilized, you’ll be covered with a sterile drape from head to toe. Your face will be uncovered so you can talk with your nurse during the procedure. At this point, the doctor will start your angiogram. Using ultrasound as a guide, your doctor will use a thin needle to gain access to the artery. Once this happens, the angiogram is underway.

It’s important to mention that the procedure table moves, so it’s normal if you feel like you’re floating or going up and down during your procedure. This is how your doctor is able to visualize your entire leg and anatomy.

Q: Am I sedated during the angiogram?

A: Yes. Typically we use moderate sedation. This is a combination of drugs to help you relax and ease any pain. With moderate sedation you may be awake during your angiogram and able to communicate with your nurse. You’ll be able to share how you’re feeling and they’ll be able to check on you as well.

Q: How long is the recovery time? Can I go home on the same day?

A: American Endovascular is an outpatient office. This means all patients go home the same day. Depending on your procedure you’ll be in our recovery room for two to four hours. Typically you’ll lie flat for the first hour and then your nurses will start elevating your head a little bit at a time. This is to make sure your body has completely healed at the entry site in your groin before we let you start moving and bending at your hips. Sometimes we do use a closure device, which is a plug to help seal the entry site, to help shorten recovery time.

Q: What should I look for when choosing a doctor for my angiogram?

A: You’ll want to research the types of approaches doctors take in treating different anatomies, different types of lesions, and certain areas. For example, not every doctor is comfortable treating the foot or the toe. At American Endovascular our doctors will do a procedure below the knee, where others won’t. This way we can treat the whole area and not just parts of it. Our doctors are comfortable, qualified, and do excellent work below the knee in the outpatient setting.

In addition, find out how your doctor feels about stenting—especially behind the knee. Patients tend to have issues with stents behind the knee because of the way the knee bends.

Be sure to ask how often your doctor will see you after your angiogram. You don’t want to have the procedure and not see your doctor again. They should be seeing you for your follow-up visits and follow-up ultrasounds to make sure their work was successful and didn’t result in the closing of the vessels.

Finally, you want to make sure your doctor is reachable both before and after your angiogram.

Q: What should I look for when choosing a facility for my angiogram?

A: You’ll definitely want to read online reviews and ask people you know who’ve had an angiogram about their experiences.

You’ll also want to determine if the facility you’re considering is using modern equipment and supplies. It’s also important to confirm that the center is an accredited facility. There are several national accreditation organizations you can check with. The top one is The Joint Commission. American Endovascular is a Joint Commission accredited facility. This is important because these accrediting bodies ensure procedures are done in a safe setting, the staff is trained correctly, and policies maximize patient safety. If a facility isn’t accredited it could be a sign that it’s not operating in a safe way.

Q: How do I prepare for the angiogram? What do I need to bring?

A: During your initial consultation with American Endovascular you’ll simply need to bring a copy of your insurance card, ID, and the results of CT scans, MRIs, or other tests that are related to the problems you’re having.

Before your angiogram, write down a complete list of your medications including the name, the dose, and how often it’s taken. Also, write out a complete list of any surgeries or procedures you’ve had in the past. On the day of your angiogram, you might get nervous and forget about a medication or a procedure you’ve had. It’s very important we have a complete record of your medical history.

Also, leading up to the procedure make notes of your questions and concerns. Either write them down or put your notes in your phone. Again, you can get nervous and easily distracted by everything that’s going on. We want to make sure that we answer all of your questions so you’re completely comfortable with the angiogram procedure.

You won’t be able to eat or drink for six hours prior to your angiogram. It’s important to check with us before your procedure to find out which medications you should take with a sip of water before your procedure, and which medications can be taken after the angiogram.

On the day of your angiogram, you’ll want to wear loose-fitting clothes like elastic waist pants. Again, we’re most likely going to be working in your groin area so after we’re done there will be bandages.

Be sure to keep our number handy when you go home. If you have any questions you can give us a call and we will always get back to you.

Learn more about vascular health, prevention, and care for Peripheral Artery Disease.

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