My first cerebral angiogram

Hi everyone, I just found this site and am so happy for the wealth of information. I am 34 and my doctors believe I have AVM. I am having a cerebral angiogram soon to confirm this. I am terrified about the procedure and am just trying to learn as much as I can about it. Since I’ve looked around this site it’s obvious that so many of you have experienced multiple angiograms already, so I feel a little silly asking, but if anyone has the time to tell me what it’s like, I’d appreciate it.

Hello Emily, and welcome! Yes, you are correct, many of us with cerebral AVMs have had multiple angiograms. I have had three myself… Two specifically for diagnostic purposes and another to have a Wada Test prior to my craniotomy. I’m not going to lie… Angiograms are scary, mostly because they are so invasive and the fact that the test itself causes such unusual symptoms. If you were to do a search here on the site, you are bound to find quite a bit of info on angiograms. Some of my previous posts go into some detail of my personal angiograms.

Here’s a run-down of the average cerebral angiogram:

  1. You will have an IV started in your hand or arm and will have some medications run to help you relax a bit. They will probably want you to be awake and lucid so that they can ask you questions and have you follow some directions during the test.

  2. You will most likely have a chance to meet with the main person that will performing the test so that he/she will give you a run-down of what to expect.

  3. You will be taken into an operating room that has a lot of X-ray type equipment set-up. You will be moved to the table and covered with a paper sloth that has a plastic sheet covering the area just above your thigh. Mine has always been on the right leg, but can also take place on the left leg if need be.

  4. The room will have approximately 5-6 people, including doctors, nurses and technicians.

  5. Once everything is set, the primary doctor will inject you with a local anesthetic, and just a matter of moments later will begin running a small tube (catheter) into your groin and up to the base of your head. Aside from the first angiogram that I had, the most painful part was the initial injection of the anesthetic. For the rest, you will feel a bit of pressure and movement near your groin, but very little (if any) pain. My first angiogram was at an older hospital and done by a less specialized medical team, which is my guess as to why it both was less comfortable and took longer to perform and to heal from.

  6. Once in place, the medical team will inject some dye through the tube, the team will exit the room for a brief moment so that some X-rays can be taken to take images and tract the path of the dye as it works through the vessels in your brain. They will probably have you hold very still, take a deep breath and hold it for about 10 seconds while they take the images. The crew will return, move the catheter to a slightly different location and repeat the process. For me, this happened about 4-5 times on the right side of my brain, another 4-5 on the left, and another 2-3 near the brain stem.

  7. I must say that the injection of the dye is probably one of the most odd sensations I have ever experienced. There is not really any pain involved, just very strange sensations. On the left and right sides, each injection of the dye left exactly half of my head feeling VERY hot… Not intolerably hot, but plenty hot. The weird part is that it felt hot INSIDE my head, not on the surface. This lasted maybe 20 seconds each time. For the injections at the brain stem, there was no sensation of heat, but there was a humming/ringing sound and some bright flashes of white light. This also lasted maybe 20 seconds.

  8. After the test is complete, they remove the tube and depending on the hospital, medical staff and how well your body handles the test, will either apply pressure to the site until the bleeding stops, use a couple of stitches to seal the wound, or use a high-tech catheter that, once removed, essentially seals the site itself. You will need to remain still and let the medical team do all of the moving for you for maybe a few hours, just to make sure you do not put pressure on the site.

  9. After this recovery time of a few hours is complete, a nurse will most likely help you out of bed and escort you for a shirt walk to make sure everything is going well. The doctor will come by and check on your status. If all is going well, you will more than likely be discharged and sent home.

  10. You’d be stiff and sore for a few days, but able to get up and walk around on your own.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have!

Hello Emily;
I have had 5 angiograms and have another booked next week. The procedure is not too bad, the worst thing for me is having to lie flat for 6 hours after, this is because the insision the catheter is fed though has to heal on it’s own, some people have a plug instead and can move sooner, but I have never been offered one.
A local injection is given so you don’t feel the catheter going in, the dye is injected and you feel a warm feeling in the part of the brain that is being looked at, personally this is not painful at all just warm. In all there is nothing to worry about.
I have always stayed in overnight and sometimes told the results before I go home.
Any questions just ask

Hi Emily,
Jake gave an excellent description of the process. For me the worst part is trying to stay still for so long after. I also hate the pressure they put on the injection site that always leaves me bruised but it has to be done. I usually have one a year.

Great description, Jake! Hi, Emily. I had mine three years ago. I found the procedure very interesting and not at all painful. until…I had to lie still flat on my back for six hours afterward! I got a backache and I had to pee sooooo bad! So make sure you don’t drink a lot that morning! lol

Hi Emily and warm greetings from Iran.
My son has done 4 Angio (one alone and 3 together with Embolozation) in Paris.
No pain and no risk at all.from “NO” , i mean near ZERO.The same of a simple injection.
Of course, if in the next steps, your doctor plans for the Embolization, there is some risk depending on the location, size and drainage.
Good Luck

Listen to what Connie says about not drinking!!! This happened to my son as well and it was not fun. Poor guy! And take an ipod or something to help pass the time. Good luck!

in hindsight, an angiogram is no big deal, but for me, I like you was terrified. Many people aren’t put asleep for their angiogram, but I was so it was pretty painless, the worst part was the lying flat for 6 hours after the procedure. You do get through it. I was 37 when I had my first angio. Try and relax and take it one step at a time. Good luck and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers

I have had two while doing embolizations. I was under anesthesia so the process was very easy. I did have some head pain for a few days after but that went away and I feel great. I’m still waiting to have my radiation and I believe they will do another arteriogram for that but I’m unsure if I will be asleep or awake. I’m hoping to be asleep once again! :slight_smile:

Hi Emily, welcome to the group. My daughter (9yo at the time) had a massive bleed almost a year ago. Until then we didn’t even know what an AVM was. Three weeks after the bleed she had her first angiogram. It was absolutely terrifying for me because I knew that we would find out if it could be treated. But once it was done it was great relief to know what we were dealing with. Jake’s explaination is incredible, I only know what it felt like in the waiting room. It took forever. My daughter had an artial line in as well, but I don’t know if that is always done. It allows them to monitor blood pressure with each heart beat.


Of all the tests done when they found out I had an AVM, I was also scared of the angiogram. But, actually, it wasn’t bad. The guys who did the AVM, were wonderful. They explained everything to me and kept me talking to them and then boommmm, I was put to sleep. They woke me up to ask me if I wanted to see my AVM and I did. I then fell back to sleep. Then they took me to a room with lots of other people and asked me if I was hungry, I was and after I finished eating, I feel back to sleep. Then another Doctor came and explained to me that my AVM was way in the back of my brain and they would have to talk about how to fix it. Because they couldn’t remove it, I had radiation treatment, which wasn’t bad at all…except they put beads in your head, which cause headaches for about a year after they put them in.

I won’t go forward right now, but please don’t be scared of the angiogram…it’s not bad at all.

Good Luck! Hang in There!

Thanks for all your responses everybody. This information is so helpful. I’m coming to terms with this and just want to get the angiogram over with already. Besides not knowing what, if anything, they’ll find, the part I’m most anxious about is being awake for the procedure. I like my doctors, though, and feel good about that. The reason I’m having this is that I have severe tinnitus and the cause is yet unknown. I had all of the other non-invasive tests, and none were conclusive. Thanks again.

Emily don’t feel silly , when it’s time for me to have a angiogram I too will be asking for answers ! Best wishes