A material called plaque can build up on the inside walls of the coronary arteries and cause them to narrow. When this happens, it’s called coronary artery disease (CAD). This can prevent enough blood from flowing to your heart and can lead to angina (an-JI-nuh or AN-juh-nuh) (chest discomfort or pain) and heart attack. Coronary angiography shows if you have CAD.
Most of the time, the coronary arteries can’t be seen on an x ray. During coronary angiography, a special dye is injected into the bloodstream to make the coronary arteries show up on an x ray.
To deliver the dye to your coronary arteries, a procedure called cardiac catheterization (KATH-e-ter-i-ZA-shun) is used. A long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in your arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck. The tube is then threaded into your coronary arteries, and the dye is injected into your bloodstream. Special x rays are taken while the dye is flowing through the coronary arteries.
Cardiologists (doctors who specialize in heart problems) usually perform cardiac catheterizations in a hospital. You’re awake during cardiac catheterization. The procedure usually causes little to no pain, although you may feel some soreness in the blood vessel where your doctor put the catheter.