Outpatient facilities like Modern Vascular provide patients with noninvasive treatment options that intervene in the effects of chronic diseases like Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), that if left untreated may lead to amputation and even death. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can lower a person’s risk of dying from untreated Peripheral Artery Disease.
In order to address moderate to severe blockages in patients with PAD additional diagnostic tools and interventions are necessary. A diagnostic test that doctors use to identify blocked or narrow blood vessels is called an angiogram, in other words, X-rays of the blood vessels. ¹ These X-rays provide images of the blood vessels in many different organs, and in patients with PAD, the focus is on the lower extremities, the legs, and the feet.
Physicians use angiogram results to diagnose a series of diseases ² including:
- Pulmonary Embolisms/Blood Clots
- Vascular Stenosis
- Congenital Abnormalities (in the blood vessels or heart)
How are Angiograms performed?
Traditional angiograms are performed by doctors by inserting a long, narrow tube called a catheter into an artery located in the arm, upper thigh, or groin. Then they inject contrast dye into the catheter and take X-rays of the blood vessels. ³
The contrast dye improves the visibility of the blood vessels on X-ray images. A physician requests an angiogram when they need to understand what’s happening inside arteries of the lower extremities.
Contrast materials help distinguish or “contrast” selected areas of the body from surrounding tissue. This helps physicians diagnose the severity of medical conditions like Peripheral Artery Disease, by improving the visibility of specific organs, blood vessels, or tissues.
Not all angiograms involve X-ray machines, however. Doctors can also perform angiograms using CT scans and MRI scans. ³
Our physicians use angiograms to analyze the flow of blood in the lower extremities or legs down to the toe. An abnormal angiogram result may indicate that a person has one or more blocked arteries.
In these cases, the doctor may choose to treat the blockage during the angiogram to revascularize the pedal loop.
Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) uses a transducer or probe to generate sound waves and produce images of blood vessels.4 When used to evaluate the arteries, IVUS can show the entire artery wall and provide important information about the amount and type of plaque buildup, which can help measure the degree of blockage. Ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation, has no known harmful effects, and can provide clear pictures of soft tissues that are not well seen on x-ray images.
This is typically used for patients in addition to the angiogram to evaluate the severity of PAD.
There is a very low risk associated with patients and angiograms in terms of developing major complications afterward. That being said, the more invasive the procedure, for instance utilizing a catheter in the heart, does have some risks.
Other risks can be associated with renal failure and allergies to contrast dyes. If you or a patient you’re advocating for has a sensitivity be sure to share this information with your vascular specialist in order to facilitate accommodations.
- Vancouver General Hospital Cardiac Cathlab. VGH Cardiac Cathlab Why do I need an angiogram Comments. (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2021, from http://cathlab.vch.ca/angiogram/why-do-i-need-an-angiogram/
- Eske, J. & Martinez, K. (n.d.) What is an angiogram? Uses, procedure, and results. Medical News Today. Retrieved December 21, 2021
- ACR, R. S. N. A. (2021, July 20). Contrast materials. Radiology.org. Retrieved December 23, 2021
- Yammine H, Ballast JK, Arko FR. Intravascular ultrasound. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford’s Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 30. Retrieved December 23, 2021