What is a pulmonary angiogram?
A pulmonary angiogram is a test that looks closely at your blood vessels in your lungs to see if they are narrowed or blocked.
Why do I need a pulmonary angiogram?
A pulmonary angiogram examines your blood vessels in your lungs to see if they are narrowed or blocked. The test uses a special type of X-ray dye.
Your doctor may recommend a pulmonary angiogram to diagnose any of the following:
- Pulmonary emboli (PE) – blood clots in the lung
- AV malformations of the lung – abnormal connections between arteries and veins
- Congenital abnormalities – narrowing of the pulmonary vessels (present from birth)
- Pulmonary artery aneurysms – a weakening and bulging of the pulmonary artery
- Pulmonary hypertension – high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs.
What are the risks of having a pulmonary angiogram?
There are some risks associated with a pulmonary angiogram, though serious risks are unlikely. The most common risk for is bruising or swelling where the needle is inserted.
Uncommon risks can include:
- Allergic reaction to the X-ray dye and medications given during the procedure
- Abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmias
- Injury to the lung vessels
- Reduced kidney function
While there is a small amount of radiation exposure from the X rays, the risk is low compared with the benefits of having the test. If you are pregnant, or are taking any medications, speak to your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to take the test.
Your doctor will explain the risks in detail before you agree to the procedure – and, you’re encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns with your medical team. Your doctor will ask you to sign a consent form to agree to have the procedure.
How do I prepare for a pulmonary angiogram?
Preparing for your pulmonary angiogram involves:
- Not eating – fast for at least six hours before your procedure begins
- Not drinking any clear fluids for two hours beforehand – clear fluids are drinks you can see through, such as water and tea without milk
- Asking your doctor about taking your medications – especially if you take medication for diabetes or blood thinning medications (if you take SGLT2 medicine for diabetes, you will need to stop taking this at least 3 days before your surgery; read our Patient Information Guide on SGLT2 inhibitors for diabetes)
- Removing any jewellery – and wearing a hospital gown during the test.
What happens during a pulmonary angiogram?
You will be awake throughout a pulmonary angiogram. Before the test begins, your doctor may offer you medication to help you relax.
During the procedure, your doctor will:
- Give you a local anaesthetic – to numb your groin
- Gently insert a catheter into a vein in your groin or arm or neck – and carefully move it up into and through the right-sided heart chambers and into the pulmonary artery, which leads to the lungs
- Inject a dye into your vein – you may feel a warm flush when this happens
- Take live x-ray images as the dye moves through the blood vessels – to clearly see where the blood vessels are narrowed or blocked
- Remove the catheter – after the images are taken and apply pressure to the site where it was inserted.
Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing will be monitored during the procedure. Electrocardiogram (ECG) leads will be stuck onto to your arms and legs to monitor your heart.
The procedure takes less than one hour.
What happens after a pulmonary angiogram?
After your pulmonary angiogram, you will wait in recovery for a few hours. You will need to keep your leg straight if the groin vein was used. Your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored (the groin puncture site also will be checked for bleeding).
You may be able to go home the same day. You won’t be able to drive the same day as your pulmonary angiogram, so remember to arrange a lift home from the hospital.
In the days after your pulmonary angiogram, it is important to:
- Drink plenty of water – this helps to flush the dye from your body
- Avoid strenuous exercise – for at least few days
- Avoid a hot bath or shower – for at least few days
- Check your puncture site regularly – keep an eye out for any bleeding, pain or swelling.
If you notice a fever, redness, swelling, bleeding, pain, numbness or tingling in your arm and leg, call your doctor.