An angiogram is an X-ray test that uses a special dye and camera (fluoroscopy) to take pictures of the blood flow in an artery (such as the aorta) or a vein (such as the vena cava). An angiogram can be used to look at the arteries or veins in the head, arms, legs, chest, back, or belly.

Common angiograms can look at the arteries near the heart (coronary angiogram), lungs (pulmonary angiogram), brain (cerebral angiogram), head and neck (carotid angiogram), legs or arms (peripheral), and the aorta (aortogram).

During an angiogram, a thin tube called a catheter is placed into a blood vessel in the groin (femoral artery or vein) or just above the elbow (brachial artery or vein). See a picture of catheter placement in the femoral vein . The catheter is guided to the area to be studied. Then an iodine dye (contrast material) is injected into the vessel to make the area show clearly on the X-ray pictures. This method is known as conventional or catheter angiogram. The angiogram pictures can be made into regular X-ray films or stored as digital pictures in a computer.

An angiogram can find a bulge in a blood vessel (aneurysm). It can also show narrowing or a blockage in a blood vessel that affects blood flow. An angiogram can show if coronary artery disease is present and how bad it is.

A magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) or computed tomography angiogram (CTA) may be an option instead of an angiogram. Each of these tests is less invasive than a standard angiogram. Some MRA tests and all CTA tests require an injection of dye. A CTA also involves radiation exposure.