Diagnostic Cerebral Angiogram

Diagnostic cerebral angiogram is a specialized medical exam using high-tech imaging equipment and X-ray pictures to examine blood vessels in the head and neck, including the brain.

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Answers to Your Questions about Diagnostic Cerebral Angiogram

Diagnostic cerebral angiogram is a specialized medical exam using high-tech imaging equipment and X-rays to examine blood vessels in the head and neck, including the brain. 

While CT scans or MRIs provide a rapid series of images, those images are static. The diagnostic cerebral angiogram is visually dynamic, allowing doctors to see how blood is flowing, helping them identify any disease states, like an aneurysm or stroke.

After sedation medicine is administered, a small catheter is inserted into the femoral leg artery, which provides a direct pathway to vessels within the head and neck. The imaging equipment uses X-rays to help doctors guide the catheter to the correct vessel. A contrast medium (dye) is injected into the vessel through the catheter, and defines the areas being examined.

Doctors are able to view blood vessels and blood flow in real-time motion, as the images are projected onto monitors similar to a television screen. At the end of the procedure, the catheter is removed and the site is bandaged.

The procedure itself takes about two hours, with a recovery of three to four hours, and patients return home the same day. Restrictions include no lifting of heavy objects or overexertion for one week, and the most common complication is some minor bruising to the leg, which typically heals quickly and easily.

Conditions or abnormalities often detected with a diagnostic cerebral angiogram include:

  • Aneurysm—a bulge or sac in an artery due to the weakness of the arterial wall.
  • Atherosclerosis—a narrowing of the arteries.
  • Arteriovenous malformation—a tangle of dilated blood vessels that disrupts normal blood flow in the brain.
  • Brain tumors.
  • Blood clots.
  • Stroke.
  • Vascular dissection—a tear in the wall of an artery.

Before diagnostic cerebral angiograms were available, patients required surgery via the carotid artery in the neck, which came with several risks and complications.

A large and diverse population of patients can benefit from this procedure. When there are questions about the brain’s blood vessels that cannot be answered through traditional imaging, an angiogram can be administered, leading to faster diagnosis and treatment, if needed.

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