A renal artery angiogram is conducted to examine your renal arteries. These arteries extend from your abdominal aorta and are primarily responsible for blood supply to your kidneys. A renal angiogram is ordered to determine if there is any disease or damage in the renal arteries. A blockage in these arteries can result in the damage of the kidneys. If a renal CT angiogram reveals damage or disease to the arteries, then you may need to opt for interventional surgery to prevent further damage.
The process of conducting an angiogram is termed as angiography, and this procedure is conducted with the assistance of any one of the following three imaging processes: X-rays, CT (computed tomography), and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Depending on the organ and disease being diagnosed, doctors order one or more of the above mentioned procedures. In case of renal angiography, CT is the preferred procedure. CT procedures require that a tracer (contrast material or radioactive chemical) be injected in order to highlight tissues and blood vessels and offer detailed images of the same.
You will be instructed to not eat or drink anything for at least 6 or 8 hours before the angiogram, especially if a tracer is being injected. You will need to apprise your physician about any medications you are consuming as well as any allergies that you may have. In case, you are allergic to the dye/contrast material being used, then your doctor can accordingly prescribe medication to minimize the consequent allergic reaction after the CT. Women need to inform the physician if they are pregnant or are nursing.
For the procedure you would need to lie down flat on your back. A small dose of contrast material would then be injected through an IV (in the vein of your arm). This is to check how long the dye takes to reach the renal arteries. Once the scanning begins, your table will move through the opening into the machine where the actual CT scanning occurs. Meanwhile, an automatic machine connected to your IV will continue to inject dye into the IV at a specified rate before as well as during scanning.
Your physician may ask you to hold your breath during the scanning process. This is because even the slightest movement can lead to blurry images. Once the scan is over, you will need to wait a few minutes until it is certain that the images captured are high quality. The actual scanning process takes only about 20 seconds, but the entire CT scan process takes much longer because you need to be positioned on the scan table, an IV needs to be administered, and the technologist needs to verify start and end points of scan.
There are hardly any risks associated with a renal angiogram. A complication, if any, will arise only in cases where the patient is allergic to the contrast material, or if the patient is suffering from heart, kidney or other such conditions. Even so, in both these cases, complications can only occur if your doctor is not aware of these conditions