from a

Patient's Perspective

Well yet another test has come and gone. This time it was an Angiogram. Basically it is where a an X-ray opaque"dye" is injected into the arteries surrounding the heart through a catheter inserted in a groin artery. The purpose of the test is to see if any of these arteries are constricted or blocked. In my case, I was not having chest pains or irregular heartbeat, but rather am about to undergo open heart surgery to repair a prolapsed mitral valve (the subject of yet another web page) and the doctor wanted to check to see if the surgeon should perform a bypass while my chest was open.

For the most part, my experiences with having the Angiogram were exactly the same as those with Cardioversion ,except of course, no Cardioversion. The registration procedure, prep, and even the Cath Lab were the same as those described on my web page on Cardioversion , so I won't repeat it here. One exception is that during the Cardioversion I was asleep whereas only lightly sedated for the Angiogram. Another is you are told to drink a lot of water prior to and after the procedure. Apparently the dye used is a bit rough on the kidneys and you want to flush it out as quickly as possible. There is also a lab test required prior to the procedure. Not sure what that is for; perhaps to insure your kidneys are working properly.

If you've read my other web pages you'll know that I'm not the bravest of patients. In fact, to say that I'm down right chicken is probably an understatement. I must admit though, as the number of procedures I undergo increases, my fear and apprehension seems to decrease. My doctor calls it "desensitization", but I think "resignation" would be a bit more accurate. Actually, since I'd already been through having a thigh artery opened and catheter inserted (during the Cardioversion) I wasn't too worried about that. I knew from first hand experience that, other than the needle prick when the anesthetic is injected, you really don't feel a thing. Well, to be perfectly honest, I had the sensation during the Angiogram that the skin was somehow being stretched or pulled. Not painful, just different. My guess is that was because the doctor must reposition the catheters to get the dye injected at the appropriate locations.

Seems ridicules now, but my greatest fear going into the Angiogram was the injection of the dye. I'd heard several people comment that it was a burning sensation. Of course yours truly, well skilled at making a mountain out of a mole hill assumed the worse. Knowing how doctors are masters of the understatement (you might feel a slight pin prick, etc.), when the doctor leaned over and said: "You may feel a little warmth", I had a mental image of white hot lava flowing through my veins. Well like all of my other fears and apprehensions to this point, this one turned out to be baseless as well. I felt a slight warmth in my throat and, of all places, my rectum, but this passed in a few seconds. I seem to remember someone saying that the dye used was an iodine compound which would explain the warmth in the throat (thyroid), but as to the other end, your guess is as good as mine. Oh yes, I was also told that my urine might burn for a few days as the dye is voided, but that wasn't my experience. In fact, other than a little soreness where the incision was made, I didn't feel anything after the procedure.

Well that is about it. Once the test is completed, the incision is closed, you rest in your room for a few hours to make sure there is no bleeding or adverse reaction from the dye, and then it's time to go home. Seems to me it was about 6 hours total from the time I arrived at the hospital until I was on my way back home.

[Note: Due to the short interval of time between the Angiogram and surgery, I didn't have much time to complete this page (less than a day to be exact), so please bear with me. Even though the decision to do the open heart surgery was made nearly three months ago, it seem that every day has been filled with some preparatory activity (more about that when I do the page on Mitral Valve Repair). Once that is over I'll see what I can do about cleaning up this page.]