Abdominal Angiogram

(Angiogram-Abdominal, Arteriogram-Abdominal, Celiac and Mesenteric Arteriography, Abdominal Arteriography, Abdominal Angiography)

Procedure overview

What is an abdominal angiogram?

An angiogram, also called an arteriogram, is an X-ray image of the blood vessels. It is performed to evaluate various vascular conditions, such as an aneurysm (ballooning of a blood vessel), stenosis (narrowing of a blood vessel), or blockages.

An abdominal angiogram is an angiogram of the blood vessels of the abdomen. An abdominal angiogram may be used to assess the blood flow to organs of the abdomen, such as the liver and spleen. It may also be used to deliver medication into structures of the abdomen to treat cancer or hemorrhage.

Fluoroscopy is often used during an abdominal angiogram. Fluoroscopy is the study of moving body structures, similar to an X-ray "movie." A continuous X-ray beam is passed through the body part being examined, and is transmitted to a TV-like monitor so that the body part and its motion can be seen in detail.

How is an angiogram performed?

In order to obtain an X-ray image of a blood vessel, an intraarterial (IA) access to a blood vessel is necessary so that a contrast dye can be injected into the body's circulatory system. Contrast dye causes the blood vessels to appear opaque on the X-ray image, thus allowing the doctor to better visualize the structure of the vessel(s) under examination. Dye is injected into specific blood vessels in order to examine a particular area of circulation more closely, the procedure is referred to as superselective angiography.

Many arteries can be examined by an angiogram, including the arterial systems of the legs, kidneys, brain, and heart.

For an abdominal angiogram, access may be obtained through a large artery, such as the femoral artery in the groin. Once access is obtained, the contrast dye is injected and a series of X-ray pictures is made. These X-ray images show the arterial blood vessel structures and blood flow in the abdomen.

Because of the development and improvement of diagnostic procedures, such as computed tomography (CT scan), ultrasound, and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, abdominal angiography is used less than it was some years ago. However, angiography is preferred in certain situations.

Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose abdominal problems include abdominal X-rays, CT scan of the abdomen, and abdominal ultrasound. Please see these procedures for additional information.

Reasons for the procedure

An abdominal angiogram may be performed to detect abnormalities of the blood vessels within the abdomen or of the abdominal organs. Such abnormalities may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Aneurysms

  • Stenosis (constriction or narrowing) or vasospasm (a spasm of the blood vessel)

  • Arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins)

  • Thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel) or occlusion (blockage of a blood vessel)

Other conditions that may be detected by an abdominal angiogram include tumors, hemorrhage, cirrhosis, inflammation, and the invasion of a tumor into the blood vessels. Angiography may be used to deliver medications directly into tissue or an organ for treatment, such as clotting medication to the site of hemorrhage or cancer medication into a tumor.

An abdominal angiogram may be recommended after a previous procedure, such as a CT scan, indicates the need for further information.

There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend an abdominal angiogram.

Risks of the procedure

You may want to ask your doctor about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your past history of radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your doctor. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of X-ray examinations and/or treatments over a long period of time.

If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your health care provider. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects.

There is a risk for allergic reaction to the dye. Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, contrast dye, or iodine should notify their doctor. Also, patients with kidney failure or other kidney problems should notify their doctor.

Because the procedure involves the blood vessels and blood flow of the abdomen, there is a small risk for complications involving the abdomen. These complications may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hemorrhage due to puncture of a blood vessel

  • Injury to nerves

  • Thrombus. A clot in the blood vessel.

  • Hematoma. An area of swelling caused by a collection of blood.

  • Infection

  • Organ (for example, kidney) damage

  • Allergic reaction

There may be other risks depending on your medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.

Before the procedure

  • Your doctor will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.

  • You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.

  • Notify your doctor if you have ever had a reaction to any contrast, or if you are allergic to iodine.

  • Notify your doctor if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medications, latex, tape, and anesthetic agents (local and general).

  • You will need to fast for a certain period of time before the procedure. Your doctor will notify you how long to fast, whether for a few hours or overnight.

  • Notify your doctor if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant.

  • Notify your doctor of all medications (prescribed and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking.

  • Notify your doctor if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, aspirin, or other medications that affect blood clotting. It may be necessary for you to stop these medications prior to the procedure.

  • Your doctor may request a blood test prior to the procedure to determine how long it takes your blood to clot. Other blood tests may be done as well.

  • You may receive a sedative prior to the procedure if necessary. You may also receive an anticholinergic medication, which acts to slow down the production of saliva in the mouth, inhibit the production of acid in the stomach, and slow down the activities of the intestinal tract, among other effects. If you receive this medication, you may notice that your mouth feels dry.

  • Depending on the site used for injection of the contrast, the recovery period may last up to 12 to 24 hours. You should be prepared to spend the night if necessary.

  • Based on your medical condition, your doctor may request other preparations.

During the procedure

An abdominal angiogram may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in the hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor's practices.

Generally, an abdominal angiogram follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that may interfere with the procedure.

  2. You will be given a gown to wear.

  3. You will be asked to empty your bladder prior to the start of the procedure.

  4. You will be positioned on the X-ray table.

  5. An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted in your arm or hand.

  6. You may be connected to an EKG monitor that records the electrical activity of the heart and monitors the heart during the procedure using small, adhesive electrodes. Your vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate) will be monitored during the procedure.

  7. The radiologist will check your pulses below the injection site and mark them with a marker so that the circulation to the limb below the site can be checked after the procedure.

  8. A line will be inserted into an artery in your groin after the skin is cleansed and a local anesthetic is injected. On occasion, an artery in the elbow area of the arm may be used. If the groin or arm site is used, the site will be shaved prior to insertion of the line. If the arm site is used, a blood pressure cuff will be applied to the arm below the site and inflated to prevent flow of the contrast into the lower arm.

  9. Once the needle has been placed, a catheter (a long, thin tube) will be inserted into the artery at the groin or arm site. Fluoroscopy may be used to verify the location of the catheter within the abdomen.

  10. An injection of contrast will be given. You may experience some effects when the dye is injected into the line. These effects include a flushing sensation, a salty or metallic taste in the mouth, a brief headache, or nausea and/or vomiting. These effects usually last for a few moments.

  11. You should notify the radiologist if you experience any breathing difficulties, sweating, numbness, or heart palpitations.

  12. After the contrast is injected, a series of X-rays will be taken.

  13. Depending on the study being performed, there may be one or more additional injections of contrast.

  14. Once sufficient information has been obtained, the catheter will be removed and pressure will be applied over the area to keep the artery from bleeding.

  15. After the site stops bleeding, a dressing will be applied to the site. A sandbag or other heavy item may be placed over the site for a period of time to prevent further bleeding or the formation of a hematoma at the site.

After the procedure

After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. The circulation and sensation of the leg where the injection catheter was inserted will be monitored. A nurse will monitor your vital signs and the injection site.

You will remain flat in bed in a recovery room for several hours after the procedure. If the groin or arm site was used, the leg or arm on the side of the injection site will be kept straight for up to 12 hours.

You may be given pain medication for pain or discomfort related to the injection site or to having to lie flat and still for a prolonged period.

You will be encouraged to drink water and other fluids to help flush the contrast from your body.

You may resume your usual diet and activities after the procedure, unless your doctor advises you differently.

When you have completed the recovery period, you may be returned to your hospital room or discharged to your home. If this procedure was performed as an outpatient, you should plan to have another person drive you home.

Home instructions

Once at home, you should monitor the injection site for bleeding. A small bruise is normal, as is an occasional drop of blood at the site.

If the groin or arm was used, you should monitor the leg or arm for changes in temperature or color, pain, numbness, tingling, or loss of function of the limb.

Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and to help pass the contrast dye.

You may be advised not to do any strenuous activities or take a hot bath or shower for a period of time after the procedure.

Notify your doctor to report any of the following:

  • Fever and/or chills

  • Increased pain, redness, swelling, or bleeding or other drainage from the groin injection site

  • Coolness, numbness and/or tingling, or other changes in the affected extremity

Your doctor may give you additional instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.

Online resources

The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. Please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

This page contains links to other websites with information about this procedure and related health conditions. We hope you find these sites helpful, but please remember we do not control or endorse the information presented on these websites, nor do these sites endorse the information contained here.

American Cancer Society

American Gastroenterological Association

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Library of Medicine