Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is a coronary angiography just an x-ray?"
I'm an active, 31 year old about to have a coronary angiography. Why don't they just call it an X-ray like it is?
Coronary angiography is much more involved than a simple x-ray, and so the name is different for that reason. The American Heart Association website has some excellent information that can be obtained for free, and this information describes the procedure well. While it is an x-ray, it also involves placing a small needle into your blood vessel, usually via the groin, and then injecting a small amount of radio opaque dye (which makes the normal anatomy of the heart visible by x-ray, as a normal x-ray will not include this detail). Because of these reasons and the small risks they occasion, it is more than just an x-ray. While the addition of the dye through the catheter in your groin is a small risk, there is the risk that some people will be allergic to the dye, or that it will be hard on their kidneys. This is a small risk, and your doctor will take precautions to make sure that you are well. There is also additional risk because of the needle, including a small risk of local infection at the site of the needle puncture. For this reason, the site is carefully cleaned before the procedure. Please discuss all of your questions and concerns with your doctor before the procedure.