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Angiography is the process of examining the blood vessels using X-ray imaging. The images generated during an angiography procedure are known as angiograms. Blood vessels do not show clearly on a normal X-ray, so a special dye called a contrast agent needs to be injected into your blood first. This highlights your blood vessels, allowing your doctor to detect any problems.  CT angiography is a type of angiography which uses CT and a special contrast dye to look at blood vessels in your brain, neck, heart, lungs, kidneys and legs. Compared with the traditional angiography procedure, CT angiography is a minimally invasive procedure and does not require catheter insertion while comparing with the traditional angiography.  In cases of several blockages in blood vessels are noticed in a CT angiography, it is recommended to follow up with a traditional angiography. It is up to the doctor to choose which angiography is best for your condition.

Why Is Angiography Required?

Angiography is a procedure used to assess the health of your blood arteries and how blood flows through them.  It can assist identify or explore a variety of blood vessel issues, including:

  • Atherosclerosis: narrowing of the arteries due to the buildup of fat, cholesterol, or other substances. If untreated it may cause stroke or heart attack
  • Angina: Angina or chest pain is a condition resulting from decreased blood supply to the heart muscles
  • Pulmonary embolism: It is the condition in which blood flow to the lungs is obstructed
  • Peripheral arterial diseases: It results in reduced blood supply to the extremities of the body
  • Brain aneurysms: It is a condition in which there is a bulge or bulb in your brain
  • To detect any obstructions in the blood vessels supplying kidneys.

Why CT Angiography Is Needed?

The following are the indications when your doctor advice you to undergo CT angiography:

  • To check if the blood vessels have been enlarged
  • To detect atherosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels due to plaque deposition)
  • To find blood vessel problems inside the brain
  • To detect blood vessel damage due to injuries
  • To detect blood clots in arms, legs, lungs, heart or kidneys
  • To detect any tumor inside blood vessels

Traditional Angiography- Procedure:

The following steps take place during angiography:

  • Your doctor will give a sedative medicine to make you relaxed and calm during the procedure, but you will be awake
  • You lie on an X-ray table and a small cut (incision) is made over one of your arteries, generally at your groin or wrist, local anesthesia is given to numb the area where the cut is done.
  • A catheter (thin flexible tube) is inserted into the artery through these incisions, carefully guiding it into the desired spot
  • A contrast agent (dye) is injected into the catheter
  • A series of X-rays are taken as contrast agent flows through your blood vessels

CT Angiography -Procedure:

The following are the steps involved in CT angiography:

  • You will be asked to lie on a narrow table that slides into the center of the CT scanner
  • An IV line is placed in your hand or arm
  • A contrast material is injected through the IV, you may feel a warm sensation
  • The exam table will pass through the scanner shortly before the radiology tech leaves the room. Through a window in a nearby room, the technician will be able to see you and communicate with you over an intercom system
  • The scanning is a painless process, but you may hear clicking, whirring, and buzzing sounds when the scanner rotates around you
  • You may be instructed to hold your breath during some time in between the scans
  • The examination process may last for about 20 minutes up to an hour or so. It depends on what body area is being scanned. You should have to wait a little longer until the technician doing the scan checks the images to make sure they're acceptable.

CT Angiography Vs. Angiography: What Is The Difference?

CT angiography is a less invasive version of the traditional angiogram. The primary difference between the two procedures is that a CT angiography does not require the insertion of a catheter, but a traditional angiogram does require the catheter to be put into the artery and to the area being investigated.  On the other hand, a conventional angiogram might be necessary as a follow-up for cases with unusual CT angiography results, such as one or more blood arteries being blocked or restricted. This is common when surgery to treat the blockage or narrowing is being considered. Because the physician can immediately conduct an angioplasty with a traditional angiogram, it may therefore be more advantageous in certain instances than a CT angiography.
Compared to conventional angiography, cardiac CT angiograms are highly accurate in identifying congenital heart disease (CHD) in individuals. 

What Are The Benefits Of CT Angiography?

The benefits of CT angiography include:

  • Painless, accurate, and fast process
  • Even though a CT scan uses radiation, no radiation is left over in your body after the CT scan is performed
  • Can assist in creating very detailed images of the head, neck, body, legs, and arms
  • Can be even performed during surgery to look at blood vessels while they are being repaired

What Are The Risks Of Angiograms?

The following are the risks associated with angiograms:

What Are The Risks Of A CT Angiogram?

The following are the risks associated with CT angiogram:

  • Radiation exposure may cause tissue damage. In some cases, radiation exposure may lead to the development of cancer (but the risk is very rare as in CT scans,  radiation exposure is very minimal and considered safe)
  • Allergic reaction to contrast material which causes itching, redness, hives, and breathing difficulties.


Both CT angiography and traditional angiography are useful imaging tests for the diagnosis of heart and blood vascular disorders. Nonetheless, a CT angiography is a non-invasive approach that is quick, easy, and not too painful for most people. Doctors can make decisions like ruling out CAD in patients with a low-to-medium risk of illness as a CT angiography is nearly as accurate as a traditional angiogram in diagnosing CHD in individuals.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q: Which one is better, CT angiography or angiography?

A: A major advantage of a CT angiography over a traditional angiography is that a CT angiography is non-invasive. However, for abnormal CT angiography findings, such as blockage or narrowing of one or more blood vessels, the patient may need a standard angiography as a follow-up.

Q: Which angiography is best for detecting heart problems?

A: CT angiography or CT coronary angiography is considered the most accurate method to detect heart problems. 

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