Saturday, 26 March 2011


Depending on the type of angiogram, access to the blood vessels is gained most commonly through the femoral artery, to look at the left side of the heart and the arterial system or the jugular or femoral vein, to look at the right side of the heart and the venous system. Using a system of guide wires and catheters, a type of contrast agent (which shows up by absorbing the x-rays), is added to the blood to make it visible on the x-ray images.

The X-ray images taken may either be still images, displayed on a image intensifier or film, or motion images. For all structures except the heart, the images are usually taken using a technique called digital subtraction angiography (DSA). Images in this case are usually taken at 2 - 3 frames per second, which allows the radiologist to evaluate the flow of the blood through a vessel or vessels. This technique "subtracts" the bones and other organs so only the vessels filled with contrast agent can be seen. The heart images are taken at 15-30 frames per second, not using a subtraction technique. Because DSA requires the patient to remain motionless, it cannot be used on the heart. Both these techniques enable the radiologist or cardiologist to see stenosis (blockages or narrowings) inside the vessel which may be inhibiting the flow of blood and causing pain.

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