During coronary angiography, you're kept on your back and awake. This allows you to follow your doctor's instructions during the test. You'll be given medicine to help you relax. The medicine might make you sleepy.
Your doctor will numb the area on the arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck where the catheter will enter your blood vessel. Then, he or she will use a needle to make a small hole in the blood vessel. The catheter will be inserted in the hole.
Next, your doctor will thread the catheter through the vessel and into the coronary arteries. Special x-ray movies are taken of the catheter as it's moved into the heart. The movies help your doctor see where to place the tip of the catheter.
Once the catheter is properly placed, your doctor will inject a special type of dye into the tube. The dye will flow through your coronary arteries, making them visible on an x ray. This x ray is called an angiogram.
If the angiogram reveals blocked arteries, your doctor may use percutaneous (per-ku-TA-ne-us) coronary intervention (PCI), commonly known as coronary angioplasty to restore blood flow to your heart.
After your doctor completes the procedure(s), he or she will remove the catheter from your body. The opening left in the blood vessel will then be closed up and bandaged.
A small sandbag or other type of weight might be placed on the bandage to apply pressure. This will help prevent major bleeding from the site.
The animation below shows the process of coronary angiography. Click the "start" button to play the animation. Written and spoken explanations are provided with each frame. Use the buttons in the lower right corner to pause, restart, or replay the animation, or use the scroll bar below the buttons to move through the frames.