Just the Facts: Peripheral Angiograms and How They Help With Vascular Disease
If you have been diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), your doctor may recommend a peripheral angiogram.
In the medical field, “peripheral” is used to denote conditions or procedures that are not centrally located near the “core” (heart, lungs, etc) of your body.
With PAD, one or more arteries that bring the blood away from your heart, toward your legs are either blocked or at risk of becoming blocked. The blockage often causes pain and discomfort.
A peripheral angiogram helps your doctor to further understand the extent of the disease in order to provide the most effective treatment plan designed for your specific needs.
Peripheral angiograms can be used to see the arteries in the arms, hands, legs, and feet.
Your treatment plan will be based on the outcome of the peripheral angiogram and will take into account your age, lifestyle, and other factors.
Although it is an exploratory procedure, a peripheral angiogram can be both diagnostic and therapeutic.
WHAT IS A PERIPHERAL ANGIOGRAM?
Performed as an outpatient procedure at a medical or surgical center, you can expect to be moderately sedated during the procedure (also known as twilight sedation). This allows you to relax during the process.
Usually, you are still breathing on your own and able to answer questions, but many people do not remember the procedure.
Your medical team will insert a catheter into a peripheral artery, usually the femoral artery near the groin, to inject a small amount of contrast dye.
As the dye flows through the artery, an X-ray video will produce a visual to see how well the blood flows and pinpoint any blockages. This procedure is also referred to as an angiography.
An angiogram is the gold standard for evaluating arterial blockages
If an artery is indeed blocked, the doctor will be able to perform peripheral angioplasty, which places a balloon catheter into the artery to open the blocked artery from the inside.
To help keep the artery open to allow the blood flow, a stent may be inserted. This is a tube that will stay in the artery for a period of time to keep the artery open.
Regardless of whether you receive a peripheral angiogram or an angiogram with stent placement, the entire procedure typically takes just one to two hours.
Also, because it’s generally performed in an outpatient setting, you’ll spend just a few hours recovering at the surgery center or hospital, before heading home to heal.
IS A PERIPHERAL ANGIOGRAM CONSIDERED SURGERY?
A peripheral angiogram does require a small incision to be made in the skin using surgical tools without having to be admitted at a medical center.
It is an outpatient procedure, not requiring an overnight stay at a hospital nor to be put under general anesthesia.
It is considered an exploratory procedure to get a better understanding of what is going on internally in order for your clinical team to make the best treatment plan for your health.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO HEAL FROM AN ANGIOGRAM?
After the catheter has been removed, pressure will be applied to the site to decrease the bleeding. You will be moved to a recovery room to make sure the bleeding stops efficiently, then released to go home.
It may be advised that you do little activity if any for 2-8 hours to allow for proper healing. The recovery time depends on the blood vessel involved in the procedure, and also the extent of the procedure itself.
After the procedure, it is advised to drink plenty of water, at least 6 glasses, to flush out the dye from your kidneys. This process usually takes about 48 hours.
Bruising at the site where the catheter was inserted is normal and should take about a week to heal.
While you are healing, be mindful of any swelling, bleeding or increased pain of the leg or insertion site.
It is recommended to avoid any added pressure from strenuous activity, squatting, bending or lifting items over 20 pounds while recovering, though taking short 10 minute walks throughout the day is beneficial for blood flow.
As the wound is healing avoid immersion into hot water, such as a tub or pool, as the site can become more vulnerable to bleeding or infection and impede the healing process.
A full set of instructions will be given to you by the doctor and will be able to go over any questions you have for post-op recovery and care.
If a stent was inserted it may take up to 8 weeks to completely heal.
THE BENEFITS RECEIVED FROM A PERIPHERAL ANGIOGRAM
Peripheral angiograms come with a number of benefits.
- An accurate and detailed diagnostic outcome
- In many cases, a balloon angioplasty itself may be enough to relieve blockages in the legs or arms
- Treatments, like stent placement, can sometimes be done during a peripheral angiogram
- Diagnostic X-rays leave no radiation behind and rarely cause side effects
- Get a better understanding of the source of pain experienced in the legs
- The procedure itself is generally painless, though some feel a hot sensation when the contrast dye is administered, like a hot flash
- The recovery time is relatively short as the procedure is considered minimally-invasive with only a small incision required
- The procedure only requires hours at a medical center, and usually, you are released the same day
YOUR HEALTH IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE TO OUR VASCULAR SPECIALISTS
Our doctors here at Vascular & Interventional Specialists of Prescott have your health in their best interest. This medical team truly cares for your best health and loves to provide information and education to support healthy habits.
If you are at risk of peripheral artery disease or have been diagnosed with it, or just want to increase the health of your legs and veins, take a look at these great tips for healthy veins.
If you have any concerns about the procedure or questions about why your doctor thinks it’s necessary, talk with your medical team. Or, for more information on peripheral angiograms, visit our website, and call to speak to our knowledgeable staff at (928) 771-8477