Carotid Angiography

Carotid angiography is a type of X-ray test. It's used to see the carotid arteries. These are the large blood vessels that supply your brain with blood. They start in both sides of your neck and continue into your head. The test uses a thin, flexible tube (catheter). It's passed into an artery in the leg or arm that leads to the carotids. Contrast dye is then injected into the catheter. The dye makes it easier to see the carotids on the X-rays.

Two technicians performing angiography on male patient.


Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and possible complications of angiography.

How do I get ready for a carotid angiography?

  • Tell your healthcare provider about any past or current health conditions.

  • Tell your provider about any allergies you may have, including allergy to contrast dye.

  • Tell your provider about all the medicines you take. You may be told to stop taking some or all of them before the test. Tell your provider about:

    • All prescription medicines

    • All over-the-counter medicines that don't need a prescription

    • Any illegal drugs you may use 

    • All herbs, vitamins, kelp, seaweed, cough syrups, and supplements

  • Tell your provider if you're pregnant or think you could be pregnant.

  • Tell your provider if you're breastfeeding. 

  • Follow any directions you're given for not eating or drinking before the test. If your provider says to take your normal medicines, swallow them with only small sips of water.

  • Arrange for an adult family member or friend to drive you home.

What happens during carotid angiography?

  • An IV (intravenous) line is started in your arm. You may also be given a medicine that helps you relax (sedative).

  • You’re given an injection to numb the site where the catheter will be inserted. This is often the groin area.

  • A small hole (puncture) is made into the artery. Then the catheter is inserted. Using X-rays, the catheter is then carefully guided through the arteries in your body into where the carotid artery starts in your neck.

  • Contrast dye is injected through the catheter into the artery. You may feel warmth, a metallic taste, or pressure in your legs, back, neck, or head. You'll need to lie still as X-rays are taken of the carotids. You may be asked to hold your breath during injections. When the test is done, the catheter is removed.

  • If a closure device is used in the leg blood vessel, a sterile dressing will be put over the site. If manual pressure is used, the provider (or an assistant) will hold pressure on the site. This is so that a clot will form. This closes off the small hole in the artery used to start the exam. Once the bleeding has stopped, a very tight bandage will be placed on the site.

What happens after carotid angiography?

  • You’ll be taken to a recovery area.

  • You’ll then need to lie flat for a few hours.

  • Your healthcare provider will discuss the results with you soon after the procedure.

  • Depending on your test results and your medical condition, you'll either be discharged home or stay in the hospital.

Once you're home:

  • Don’t drive for 24 hours or as advised by your provider.

  • Don't walk, bend, lift, or take stairs for 24 hours or as advised by your provider.

  • Don't lift anything over 5 pounds for 7 days.

Follow any other instructions from your healthcare provider.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your provider

  • Chills

  • Bleeding, swelling, or a lump at the insertion site

  • Sharp or increasing pain at the insertion site

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

  • Leg pain, numbness, or a cold leg or foot

  • Any other symptoms your provider told you to report based on your medical condition

Call 911

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following:

  • Severe headache

  • Vision problems

  • Trouble speaking

© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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