What is angiography?

Angiography is a way to produce X-ray pictures of the insides of blood vessels. When blood vessels are blocked, narrowed, damaged or abnormal in any way, problems including stroke may occur. Angiography helps your physician determine the source of the problem and the extent of damage to the blood vessel segments that are being examined.

What is cerebral angiography?

Cerebral angiography is also known as intra-arterial digital subtraction angiography (IADSA). In cerebral angiography, a catheter (long, thin, flexible tube) is inserted into an artery in the arm or leg. Using the catheter, a technician injects a special dye into the blood vessels that lead to the brain. In cerebral angiography, X-ray images show blood vessel abnormalities in the brain.

Results from a cerebral angiogram are more accurate than those produced by carotid Doppler. Usually, cerebral angiography is used after another test has already found an abnormality.Angiography is used to help detect and diagnose acute stroke. The images that result from cerebral angiography are not available from other techniques.

What happens during a cerebral angiography?

Before this procedure is performed, you will remove all clothing and jewelry and will put on a hospital gown. A local anesthetic will be given where an incision is made prior to the placement of the catheter. The catheter will be positioned within the carotid arteries and contrast dye will be injected. During the injection of the contrast dye, you may feel a warm feeling. A regular X-ray will be used to take pictures of the blood vessels in the brain. A technologist and a radiologist will stay with you while the procedure is being performed. You will be awake during the procedure, which can take from one to two hours to complete.

What are the risks of cerebral angiography?

You may feel some discomfort or pain with the placement of the catheter. The anesthetic that you are given should relieve most of the discomfort. With this procedure, there is a risk of stroke caused by the catheter. It is possible that the catheter could break off plaque. This plaque could block a smaller blood vessel in the brain and lead to stroke. Your doctor will discuss any risks with you before the procedure.


  • Radiological Society of North America and American College of Radiology. Cerebral Angiography. www.radiologyinfo.org/ Accessed 2/16/2016.
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke. Neurological Diagnostic Tests and Procedures. www.ninds.nih.gov/ Accessed Accessed 2/16/2016.
  • Smith W.S., English J.D., Johnston S.C. (2012). Chapter 370. Cerebrovascular Diseases. In D.L. Longo, A.S. Fauci, D.L. Kasper, S.L. Hauser, J.L. Jameson, J. Loscalzo (Eds), Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18e. Retrieved February 6, 2012 from www.accessmedicine.com/. Accessed 2/16/2016.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/25/2016…#13476