Cardiac catheterisation and coronary angiography

Risks of cardiac catheterisation and coronary angiography

Cardiac catheterisation and coronary angiography are generally considered to be safe procedures. However, as with all medical procedures, there are some associated risks.

Potential risks of coronary angiography include:

  • bleeding under the skin at the wound site (haematoma) – this should improve after a few days but contact your GP if you are concerned
  • bruising – it is common to have a bruise in your groin or arm afterwards
  • allergy to the contrast dye used – this is rare but you should discuss any allergies that you have with your cardiologist (heart specialist) before having the procedure

Serious complications

In very rare cases, more serious complications of coronary angiography can occur. These include:

  • heart attack – a serious medical emergency where the heart's blood supply is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot
  • stroke – a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted
  • damage to the artery in the arm or groin in which the catheter was inserted, with possible impairment of circulation to the limb
  • deterioration in kidney function
  • tissue damage from X-rays if the procedure is prolonged
  • death

The risk of a serious complication occurring is estimated to be around 2 in 1,000. It is usually the result of serious underlying heart disease. Your cardiologist should discuss the risks with you before you have the procedure.

Last updated: 29 January 2013

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