What Is a Femoral Angiogram?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A femoral angiogram is a medical imaging study a doctor may request to visualize the blood supply to the legs. If necessary, the doctor can also perform an angioplasty to address damaged blood vessels at the same time. This will lengthen the total time needed for the procedure, but spares the patient need for a separate appointment for the angioplasty procedure. A hospital or catheterization clinic usually has the facilities needed for femoral angiography.

An angiogram is an X-ray used to see how blood is flowing through the blood vessels.
An angiogram is an X-ray used to see how blood is flowing through the blood vessels.

In the traditional femoral angiogram, the patient receives a mild sedative to relax during the procedure. A technician feeds a catheter into the femoral artery in the groin and uses it introduce a contrast material. This material will highlight the blood vessels during the next portion of the procedure, where x-rays or fluoroscopy are used to follow the tracer as it moves through the blood vessels in the legs. Structures like the bones will be visible and can be useful landmarks.

A doctor will interpret the femoral angiogram to determine whether the patient has a healthy supply of blood to the legs.
A doctor will interpret the femoral angiogram to determine whether the patient has a healthy supply of blood to the legs.

A doctor will interpret the femoral angiogram to determine whether the patient has a healthy supply of blood to the legs. If the test shows a problem, the doctor can pinpoint it and determine the best treatment. This procedure may be ordered if a patient shows signs of vascular disease or if a physician wants to follow up on treatments like angioplasty. As a follow-up test, it can confirm that the treatment succeeded or show evidence of failure of treatment.

A patient can discuss a femoral angiogram and any possible alternatives with their doctor beforehand.
A patient can discuss a femoral angiogram and any possible alternatives with their doctor beforehand.

Patients may experience a burning or tingling sensation during the femoral angiogram because of the contrast material. This should pass, and the material itself will be eliminated from the body over the course of several days. Rarely, patients experience an allergic reaction to the contrast. These patients may develop rashes, intense itching or burning, or difficulty breathing. They should report these symptoms to a nurse or technician, who can determine if evaluation and intervention are necessary.

Alternatively, a doctor may order a femoral angiogram with magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography to visualize the blood vessels. These options are less invasive and may be more comfortable for the patient. They can also generate high resolution images that will provide a great deal of detail. The best option can depend on available facilities, why the patient needs the test, and which method the doctor prefers. Patients with questions can discuss them with a physician and find out if a different method is available or would be more suitable for them.

A femoral angiogram may be combined with an MRI so a doctor can better visualize blood vessels.
A femoral angiogram may be combined with an MRI so a doctor can better visualize blood vessels.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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