What We Do

A Coronary Angiogram is an x-ray of your heart's circulation and its different chambers. Arteries don't show up well in a normal x-ray, so we inject a contrast to make them more visible for a short while. The x-ray will allow your doctor to see where your arteries may be blocked and advise you on how to treat any heart problem revealed.

Your doctor uses a tube (catheter) – it's inserted into one of your arteries in your groin or sometimes through your wrist.​

 Materials and Resources to Help You

The Patient & Family Education Program at UHN offers valuable resources to help you understand your condition.

Resources from the Patient & Family Education Program

Visit our Health Information section to find dedicated resources to help you understand your condition. Find the information you're looking for.​

 Your Procedure

How to Prepare

You will need to have a blood test before the procedure. If this has not been arranged prior to your procedure, then call the Triage Office to find out what to do. If you have any questions, you can call your doctor's office or call the Triage Office at 416 340 5184.

If there are any changes in the booking of your test, you will be called by the Triage Office.

If you cannot go to your test, call the Triage Office as soon as you know. If you are unable to reach the doctor, then leave a message at 416 340 5184.

Take a shower the night before or the morning of your test.

Please bring with you a list of your current medications. This includes prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamin or mineral supplements and herbal remedies.

If your procedure is in the morning you can have NOTHING to eat or drink from midnight the night before your procedure. Medications can be taken with a sip of water unless you are instructed otherwise by your doctor. Your doctor will give you instructions about your blood thinner or diabetes pills.

If your procedure is in the afternoon you can have a small breakfast (such as toast and juice) before 6:00 am. Do not have anything else to eat until after your test. Medications can be taken with a sip of water unless you are instructed otherwise by your doctor. Your doctor will give you instructions about your blood thinner or diabetes pills.

If you take a "blood thinner" (i.e. Coumadin® or Warfarin) or you are not sure, call the Triage Office or doctor that will be doing your test. Ask what you need to do about your "blood thinner".

If you take pills (i.e. Metformin®) or insulin for your diabetes, then call the Triage Office or the doctor who is arranging your test. Ask what you will need to do about your medication and breakfast on the day of the test.

If you need an interpreter, bring a friend or family member who has to be present in the lab for the test. You'll be sedated during this procedure. The friend or family member will be instructed on how to care for you after the exam and be required to drive and/or accompany you home. They can also help you gather information, take notes and ask questions.

You'll need to arrange for someone to stay with you during the night after you have had your test.

Checking In

Your procedure will be done in the Cardiovascular Investigations Unit.

At the Toronto General Hospital, you will initially check in at the Cardiac Short Stay Unit on the 5th Floor Munk Building. Please check in at the nurses' station.

At the Toronto Western Hospital, you will check in directly at the reception desk at the Cardiovascular Investigations Unit.

Please have the following ready:

  • Health card (OHIP card). If you do not have an OHIP card, please bring another form of government-issued photo ID (such as a driver's license, passport, or other provincial health card). Please arrive 15 minutes before your appointment.
  • Your name, address and birth date

Before the Coronary Angiogram

When you check-in, the receptionist will give you a name band to wear. You will be assigned a room to wait until it's time for your procedure. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown. Your family should keep your valuables with them.

When you have finished changing, a nurse will prepare you for the test and the physician will explain the procedure and ask for your consent.

A heart catheterization can be done in two ways: using the femoral artery or the radial artery. Both ways are safe. A catheter is inserted through the femoral artery, which is a large artery near your groin, or the radial artery in your arm. For either method, hair is first removed from the area.

We give you medication to help you relax before you enter the lab, but you'll remain awake during the procedure.

During and After the Coronary Angiogram

The coronary angiogram is done in a lab. The lab is kept cool to keep the machines working properly, so you may feel cool as well. During the procedure, the nurses will monitor your heart rhythm and blood pressure. Sterile sheets will be put on you to keep the insertion site clean.

The doctor will give you an injection to numb the area where the catheter will be inserted. Then a hollow plastic guide (sheath) will be inserted into the artery – you may feel some pressure and tingling, which is normal. Then your doctor will insert a longer tube, which goes to the top of your heart. If you feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure, tell the doctor right away.

Your doctor will then inject contrast through the catheter that goes into your heart. You may feel a hot flash lasting about 30 seconds. This is normal. Again, if you feel any pain or discomfort, tell the doctor immediately.

While the contrast is moving through your heart, the doctor will ask you to take a deep breath and hold it – this helps us get better pictures of your heart. The doctor will let you know when you can breathe normally again.

After the pictures are taken, the catheter will be removed. The sheath may be removed in the lab, in the recovery room or in the Cardiac Short Stay Unit.

If your doctor has used the femoral artery near your groin, a clamp will be applied to the area where the catheter was put in. If your doctor has used your arm artery, another type of pressure will be used. This is to stop any bleeding and to help the area heal.

When you return from the lab, you'll be lying flat on your back with your leg straight. You need to stay in this position for 3 to 6 hours before you're allowed to sit up. This allows more time for the area to heal. One hour after the procedure, you'll be allowed to have something to eat and drink. A nurse will check the blood pressure and the pulses in your wrists and feet and will also check the area where the catheter was inserted.

The Results of Your Coronary Angiogram

The physician will speak to you following the coronary angiogram.

How Long Will Your Appointment Be?

A coronary angiogram usually takes 60 to 90 minutes, however, you will be here all day.

We do everything that we can to stay on time. Unfortunately, your appointment may be delayed by unforeseen circumstances. We recommend that you come prepared for delays.​​​

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