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What Are the Uses for a Carotid Angiogram?

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  • Written By: Jackie Myers
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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The carotid arteries supply the brain with blood. A carotid angiogram is an invasive procedure in which a catheter is inserted into the carotid artery or arteries. After the catheter is in place, dye is injected into the bloodstream, allowing images of the arteries to show clearly on x-rays. A carotid angiogram may be used to help prevent a stroke and see whether cancer has progresed, though the procedure itself is not free of side-effects.

Doctors may prescribe an angiogram of the head or neck to see narrowing or blockage of the arteries. If blood flow becomes blocked in the arteries of the neck, the chances of a stroke or transient ischemic attack increase. A stroke occurs when a sudden disruption in blood flow becomes blocked within a blood vessel. Transient ischemic attacks are only brief interruptions of blood flow to the brain. Both of these conditions can be detected with a carotid angiogram.

A carotid angiogram will reveal an aneurysm inside of the brain or blood vessel leading to the brain. An aneurysm can be seen on x-rays as a bulging section in the walls of a blood vessel that is weak and stretched out. When the lining of the blood vessel bulges outward, it can become weak and rupture. As a result, bleeding occurs and causes a stroke.

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Experts can also use a carotid angiogram to see the pattern of blood flowing to a tumor. Imaging tests reveal if the tumor has spread throughout the body. Decisions about the best treatment for a patient's tumor can be made after the procedure. A four-vessel study angiogram may be used to display the areas of the neck and head more clearly. A catheter is placed in each of the four main arteries that carry blood to the neck and brain.

Patients that report symptoms indicative of problems with blood flow to the brain are likely to be asked to undergo a carotid angiogram. Some of the symptoms include slurred speech, severe headaches, loss of coordination, dizziness, and blurred vision. An angiogram can help experts accurately diagnose medical conditions.

Those who have a carotid angiogram may experience several adverse effects. Some people may have an allergic reaction to the iodine dye. There is also a possibility that the catheter inserted above the elbow or groin can damage blood vessels or dislodge fat and blood clots from the vessel lining. If that occurs, the fat or blood clot can flow to the brain. There is also a small chance of cell damage that can occur from the radiation.

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