At Cross County Cardiology – Mount Sinai, we use the latest diagnostic approaches. A coronary angiogram is a minimally invasive procedure that helps diagnose blockages in the coronary arteries. It is also called cardiac catheterization. Coronary artery blockages are commonly caused by the buildup of cholesterol plaque (atherosclerosis). This can restrict blood flow through the arteries. With this condition, you may experience chest pain (angina) when you exercise or stress your heart. If this buildup of plaque suddenly ruptures, it can lead to a heart attack (myocardial infarction or acute coronary syndrome).
A coronary angiogram is a special X-ray that lets us see what is going on in your heart. It helps us diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD). We often use this approach if a noninvasive test, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), echocardiogram, or regular stress test, is not conclusive.
What to Expect
The procedure is performed with a coronary catheterization. We insert a thin tube through a tiny incision in the skin into one of the arteries that leads to the heart. Then we inject a contrast dye through the tube. This dye shows up on X-rays and lets us pinpoint areas that are blocked and need treatment.
Not all blockages require surgery. Sometimes we can treat blockages with medication or lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Lifestyle changes can help, such as eating a healthy diet, getting more exercise, and stopping smoking.
Other blockages can be treated—even during the coronary angiogram procedure itself—with angioplasty. This involves inflating a tiny balloon in the blood vessel to improve blood flow. Serious blockages may require stent placement or coronary artery bypass surgery. There is some risk, but major complications are rare with these procedures.