Pulmonary Angiography

Front view of female outline showing heart, lungs, major arteries and veins. Catheter inserted in femoral vein going to heart.

Pulmonary angiography is an X-ray of the blood vessels that supply the lungs. It is used to find a blood clot, also called a pulmonary embolism, in these blood vessels. The procedure is often done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist. Or it may be done by a cardiologist. This type of study is rarely done. Instead, a CT angiography of the chest is often used.

Tell your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Any allergies to food or medicines

  • Any recent illnesses and all medical conditions you have

  • If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • If you are breastfeeding

  • If you have an irregular heart rhythm

  • What medicines, vitamins, herbs, or supplements you take, including over-the-counter medicines and street drugs

Getting ready for your procedure

  • Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

  • Change into a hospital gown. Remove hair clips, jewelry, dentures, and other metal items that could show up on the X-ray.

  • Go to the bathroom to empty your bladder just before the procedure begins.

  • Plan to have a friend or relative available to drive you home. 

During your procedure

  • Lie down on the X-ray table. An IV line is put into a vein in your hand or arm. You will be given fluids or medicines through the IV.

  • Medicine is put on the skin over your groin to numb it. A needle is then put into a blood vessel near the groin or your arm. The needle is then replaced with a thin, flexible tube called a catheter.

  • Using X-ray images as a guide, the healthcare provider moves the catheter through blood vessels and your heart to the pulmonary artery. This is the artery that carries blood to your lungs.

  • X-ray dye, also called contrast medium, is injected into your artery through the catheter. This dye helps the blood flow in your lungs show up better on X-rays. You may feel warmth when the dye is injected.

  • X-ray images are then taken. Stay as still as you can while the X-rays are taken. You may be asked to hold your breath for 10 to 25 seconds at a time. The healthcare provider will tell you when to hold your breath and when to breathe.

  • After the X-rays are taken, the catheter is removed. Pressure will be put on the insertion site for 5 to 10 minutes to stop bleeding.

  • The whole procedure may take about 1 hour.

After your procedure

After the procedure, you may stay in the hospital for a few hours or overnight. When you go home:

  • Care for the insertion site as directed.

  • Keep the leg on that side straight for 6 hours after the procedure.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the X-ray dye out of your body.

Possible risks and complications 

  • Infection or bruising around the catheter insertion site

  • Problems because of X-ray dye, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

  • Damage to a blood vessel by the catheter

  • Pulmonary embolism because blood clots were released from blood vessel walls

  • Short-term abnormal heartbeats