The aorta is the main blood vessel flowing out of the heart. It supplies oxygen rich blood to all parts of the body through the various vessels that branch out of it. As it exits the left ventricle of the heart, the aorta moves upwards to the arch from where it turns down and runs through the abdomen. The aorta is thus extremely vital to the body as it is a lifeline for the whole body. Testing the flow of blood through this vital vessel is essential to understand the possible cause for a range of conditions that occur due to abnormal functioning of the aorta. The method for testing the functioning of the aorta is by using a technique known as angiography.
Angiography is an imaging based technique also known as an angiogram wherein a contrast material, usually a radioactive dye is passed through the blood vessel being tested. At the same time, x-ray images are taken of the vessel to chart the progress of the dye, and therefore the blood, through the vessel. The dyes tend to have the same viscosity and fluid dynamics as blood so that it flows in a similar way to the blood and can be used to accurately judge the flow of blood. The flow will give indications about possible blockages or of aneurysms if any. An aortic arch angiography may also be conducted where the test is specifically targeted at testing the flow of blood around the aortic arch.
In preparation for the aortic angiography test, you will probably be asked to avoid food for 8 hours before the test. The doctor may also place you under mild sedation, although full sedation is not recommended as the doctor will require your body to be alert in case any discomfort occurs during the procedure. A catheter is inserted through a cut, usually in the thigh near the groin and is guided up the blood vessels to the aorta. This will be done using imaging to allow the doctor to watch the progress of the catheter. Once placed in the aorta, or near the arch for an arch aorta test, the catheter will be used to inject a contrast dye. The path and progress of the dye will then be monitored. Recovery from such a test is fairly immediate and most patients are not admitted to hospital unless the test shows some serious anomaly which requires immediate medical intervention. Patients may be required to travel with a companion to avoid problems associated with mild drowsiness that may be felt.