What are the risks of angiograms?

Risks of angiograms include damage to blood vessels, allergic reactions to tracer dyes, and bleeding at the site of injections and catheter insertions. Angiograms are invasive and, although the risks are low, they cannot be completely eliminated. Some patients may be more vulnerable to complications such as kidney damage after an angiogram. Before proceeding with the test, it is important to review your medical history and discuss any concerns with a doctor. Patients may also ask why the test is recommended and if there are any alternatives available.

Some of the risks of angiograms surround injections and catheter insertions. These can expose the patient to the risk of infection, pain, bleeding and bruising. In rare cases, advancing a catheter through blood vessels can dislodge plaque and clots. These can travel to the heart, lungs, or intestinal tract and cause a heart attack, where part of the tissue dies because a blockage impedes circulation. It is also possible to rip or tear blood vessels, especially if they are fragile.

The tracer dyes used in an angiogram may also be of concern. Some patients experience an allergic reaction to them and may develop skin irritation, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms. In patients with existing kidney disease, the risks of angiograms may also include more kidney problems, as the body may not be able to completely remove the tracer dye when the kidneys are stressed.

With coronary angiograms, there is also a risk of cardiac complications such as arrhythmias or edema in the cardiac sac. The technician will work to manage these risks, but if a patient already has an unstable heart, it may be difficult to avoid them entirely. Risks of angiograms also include radiation. Although the radiation levels are low with this test, the patient will be exposed to some radiation, and this can be a problem if the patient needs multiple radiation medical imaging studies.

The benefits of an angiogram usually outweigh the risks. This test can provide important information about the health of your blood vessels and can help a doctor with a procedure to repair or open blood vessels. Patients should consider the risks of angiograms before consenting to the test and can request specific information if they have questions. A doctor can discuss any issues that may be of particular cause for concern in a patient and can also provide information on how angiography complications would be managed if they occur.

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