Aortography refers to a minimally invasive x-ray examination of the body’s main artery, the aorta. It is used to diagnose diseases of the aorta, such as an aortic aneurysm. For the examination, a catheter is used to administer an x-ray contrast agent into the aorta.

Aortography is an angiographic method of examination. Angiography refers to the production of x-ray images of blood vessels after a contrast agent has been added to the bloodstream. Aortography helps doctors to identify calcifications, widening or narrowing of the aorta. Sometimes aortogramsare also used during aortocoronary bypass surgery.

What preparations are made before the examination?

Prior to the examination, the patient’s medical history is reviewed to establish whether they are hypersensitive to x-ray contrast agents. A blood test is also carried out to check their kidney function. The patient may need to stop taking blood-thinning medication before the examination.

How is the examination carried out?

A catheter is inserted into the body via an artery, usually in the groin. The injection site is numbed using a local anaesthetic. A general anaesthetic is usually not necessary, as the catheter examination itself is not painful. However, patients do receive a light sedative to help them relax during the procedure. The catheter – a thin, flexible tube – is monitored on a screen (fluoroscopic imaging) as it is pushed through the artery until it reaches the part of the aorta requiring examination. A contrast agent is then applied directly to the aorta via the catheter. The contrast agent makes it possible to precisely examine the aorta and the arteries leading away from the aorta.

What is the success rate of this examination?

Aortography is excellent for identifying diseases of the aorta – such as widening of the aorta, aortic aneurysms, tears, calcifications and diseases affecting the aortic valves.

What are the possible complications and risks of this examination?

This is generally a low-risk examination. Bruising may occur at the site where the catheter enters the artery (cannulation site). The administration of the contrast agent may cause a warm sensation; however, this is generally not perceived as unpleasant. Damage to the aorta or temporary cardiac arrhythmias are rare.

What happens after the examination?

After the examination, the cannulation site is dressed with a compression bandage. The patient can usually leave the hospital after a few hours under observation. The compression bandage is removed the following day.

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