What Is Brain Angiogram?

Submitted on March 27, 2012

A brain angiogram is also known as a cerebral angiography. It is a medical procedure used to non - invasively have a look at the internal blood flow and performance of vessels and arteries in the head and neck region. An angiogram of the brain is one of the foremost methods of detecting conditions such as aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations. Some of the other purposes that the procedure helps with include the detection of blockages or narrowing of the arteries in the neck that serve to carry the blood to the brain. In the event that blood flow to the brain is either slowed down or stopped, the consequences include a stroke or transient ischemic attack. The brain angiogram procedure is also used to check the pattern of blood flow into a tumor and also helps identify if the tumor has grown over a period of time.


An angiogram of the brain is performed by a radiologist who will first place an intravenous injection into the patients arm to supply the body any required fluids or medication. A device that measures the pulse and oxygen levels in your blood will then be placed on the tip of your finger or ear. A number of small electrodes will be placed on parts of your body including your arms, chest and legs in order to help record any changes in heart rate and rhythm. The patient will be required to lie down on an x-ray table while restraints may be placed to make sure you remain absolutely still. Any movement will blur the captured images - rendering the entire process a waste of time. Other parts of your body will be covered with the help of a lead apron to prevent X-ray exposure. A catheter will then be placed into the groin area or just above the elbow after a local anesthetic has been applied. This catheter will be guided through the blood vessels until it reaches the region of the body that requires studying. The overall procedure will take approximately 1 to 3 hours. You would require some amount of rest just after the procedure has been completed.

A brain angiogram is a medical procedure which allows doctors to see how much blood flows through the brain. It is used to identify problems with blood vessels in the brain that could lead to a stroke, aneurysm, blood clots, fatty plaque or any other conditions. It is performed by inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in the leg and then threading it up to the brain. A special dye is then injected into it and x-rays are taken.

Risks and Side Effects

There are certain risks with a brain angiogram. Brain angiogram risks include the following - some people may have an allergic reaction to the dye which leads to breathing difficulties, a rash, itching. Shock may occur as well. To avoid such brain angiogram risks it is best to inform the doctor of any allergies that you may have before the procedure. Brain angiogram risks also include the fact that the catheter may cause damage to a blood vessel. The catheter may dislodge fat or a portion of clotted blood from the walls of the blood vessel. This can lead to the flow of blood to the brain, arm, leg or bowel being blocked. If a blood clot breaks off and flows to the leg it can cause pain. Although rare, the catheter may also damage to an artery either in or near the brain. This could result in a blockage of the flow of blood to the brain and lead to a stroke.

Brain angiogram side effects could also include chest pain, shortness of breath, bleeding from the area of incision, dizziness, vision problems or slurred speech, weakness in the muscles of your face or arms and legs, headaches, as well as tenderness and bruising at the site where the catheter was inserted. Bleeding from the needle site can occur as well. A blood clot may also form where the catheter was inserted. This will cause the blockage of blood flow in the arm or the leg. The iodine dye that is used in the test can cause damage to the kidney or result in water loss. However, this is more applicable to people who have kidney problems and people who are dehydrated.

Recovery Time & Cost

Brain angiogram recovery time is determined by the site of entry of the catheter. After the procedure, the person is taken to the recovery room where he should rest flat on the bed. Since there is a risk of excessive bleeding, the person has to stay overnight. Outpatients are kept under observation for about 6-12 hours and then sent home. You will need to check with the hospital regarding brain angiogram cost.

Patients may experience some amount of pain when the catheter is being inserted or the anesthetic is been given. While some pressure may be experienced on the removal of the catheter, pain should not be present. Some after effects of the procedure include lightheadedness, nausea or even the presence of a salty or metallic taste in the mouth for a few days after the procedure.