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What is angiography of the heart?

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Angiography of the heart, or coronary angiography, is a test that uses special X-rays and a contrast dye to show the blood vessels of the heart, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Doctors use this test to diagnose the severity and extent of blockages in the coronary arteries, explains MedicineNet.

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The coronary angiography procedure lasts about 30 to 60 minutes, according to MedlinePlus. At the start of the procedure, the doctor gives the patient a mild sedative. After the patient receives a local anesthesia, the doctor passes a catheter through an artery in the arm or groin. He advances the catheter to the opening of the coronary artery with the help of a fluoroscope, which is a special type of X-ray that helps him to position the catheter, reports MedicineNet.

After positioning the catheter, the doctor injects the contrast dye through its opening, explains MedlinePlus. He uses a special X-ray to take pictures of how the dye moves through the coronary arteries. The dye highlights blockages in blood flow.

A coronary angiography tests for coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease and heart valve problems, states Mayo Clinic. Doctors recommend this test to patients who suffer from angina, aortic stenosis or who have had heart failure or a recent heart attack, notes MedlinePlus.

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