Pulmonary angiography is a medical testing procedure that involves the use of a special dye. The dye is inserted into the blood, and then the blood is monitored to check its flow through the lungs. X-ray images are used in order to get the pictures of the blood flow through the respiratory system, especially the lungs. Since the test utilizes the pulmonary artery, it is also known as the pulmonary artery angiogram.
The pulmonary angiogram is conducted at a hospital where you will be made to lie down on an X-ray table. Your heart's impulses will be monitored using several electrocardiogram leads. These leads will be taped to both your arms and legs. You will also be given a mild sedative to help you relax.
A local anesthetic is then used to numb your groin, arm, or any other area of your body from where a small surgical cut will be made. The cut is made to expose an artery. The cut is then cleaned and a catheter is inserted into the artery. The catheter is a narrow tube which is moved up carefully, into the pulmonary artery, through the heart. Since the pulmonary artery is responsible for transferring blood to the lungs, the catheter is placed in it. Small amounts of a dye are inserted into the catheter to mix with the blood in the pulmonary artery. Once this dye mixes with the blood, the doctor is able to see live images on an X-ray monitor.
The dye is a contrast material which highlights the blood. As the doctors watch the live images, they can ascertain from the flow of blood, any blockages that might be causing a disruption in the blood flow. The dye in the blood is useful in highlighting the blockages, if any.
Meanwhile, the catheter is continuously washed with a saline solution to prevent the blood in the catheter from clotting. During this entire procedure, the ECG leads that are taped to your body allow the doctors to monitor your pulse and blood pressure throughout the procedure.
A CT pulmonary angiogram is preferred over an X-ray image. The CT images are clearer and give a wider coverage of images. The pulmonary CT angiogram is a slightly expensive procedure and is considered a specialized test because of the intrusion caused by the catheter. After the scan is done, both the catheter and the ECG leads are removed. Since the cut in the artery is a little deep, pressure may need to be applied on the site for a period of 15 minutes. After the blood is contained, the area is bandaged.