Angiogram of the brain
This fact sheet provides information on angiograms. Our fact sheets are designed as general introductions to each subject and are intended to be concise. Each person is affected differently and you should speak with your doctor or specialist for individual advice.
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What is an angiogram?
An angiogram is an X-ray test used to produce pictures of blood vessels. A cerebral angiogram shows the blood vessels in your head and neck.
What happens before the test?
A doctor will ask you about your medical history and any medication you are taking, and will explain the test to you. They will ask you for your consent for the test. If you are too unwell to give your consent, the procedure will be discussed with your family.
You will probably not be allowed to eat or drink for four to six hours before the test.
What happens during the test?
The test is carried out in the radiology department in a room with large, high-technology computerised equipment.
There will usually be at least three people in the room during the procedure: a radiologist, a radiographer, and a nurse.
You will be asked to lie on an X-ray table in the room. The doctor or nurse will put sterile towels over you and clean an area in your groin. The radiologist will put a local anaesthetic in your groin so you will not be able to feel what is going on.
The radiologist will then put a very small tube (catheter) into the blood vessel in your groin (the femoral artery). This is passed through other blood vessels in your body until it reaches your neck. You will not feel it moving inside you.
The radiologist will then position the tube into different blood vessels in the neck. While this happens, you will receive injections of a special dye (called contrast agent) to produce more detail in the pictures.
The injections may give you a general warm feeling, but this goes away quickly.
Before taking the first picture, the radiographer will move the equipment around you into the correct position. More pictures are taken with further injections.
It is very important that you remain still throughout the procedure to ensure the pictures taken are as clear as possible.
The whole procedure is likely to take at least one hour.
What happens after the test?
When all the information has been collected, the tube in your groin will be removed by the radiologist.
The point where the tube was inserted will be pressed on for up to ten minutes to seal it and stop any bleeding.
After any bleeding has been stopped, you will be transferred back on to the bed and taken into the recovery room, or directly back to the ward.
You might be allowed food and drink, but you will have to lie flat for four to six hours after the test.
When you have recovered, the doctors will be able to discuss the results of the angiogram with you.
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This information was last checked in July 2013. Due for review July 2016
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