Spinal Angiography

Why is this procedure done?

Spinal angiography is a diagnostic test used to view the blood vessels that supply the spinal cord and the tough membranes that cover the spine. It involves the injection of a special type of contrast material or dye into the blood vessels and x-ray imaging. This injection occurs through a catheter or long, skinny plastic tube. The catheter is inserted into the large artery in the groin and then is used to inject the many different branches that supply the spine with blood. This procedure is done to help diagnose medical conditions that involve the arteries and veins of the spine and is the only test that is capable of detecting certain types of vascular diseases of the spine.

How is the spinal angiography done?

This minimally invasive (nonsurgical) procedure is performed in the hospital in the neurointerventional radiology area. 

A small, flexible tube called a catheter is inserted into an artery, usually in the groin. Fluoroscopy (a type of x-ray) is used to guide the catheter through the arteries that supply the entire length of the spine. Once the catheter is in place, the contrast material is injected and x-ray images are taken for several seconds as the contrast goes through the arteries and veins in the head and neck.

Patients are usually under general anesthesia for this test because it can last up to two hours. Patients normally spend about 3 – 4 hours in the hospital after the procedure allowing, the artery in the groin time to clot.

What are my risks? What are common complications?

All medical procedures have risks. The risks of cerebral angiography can include bleeding at the site where the artery is entered, injury to the blood vessels that supply the spine and the development of blood clots inside of the blood vessels. As with any medical procedure, you should talk to your doctor about the risks versus the benefits of the procedure.

What do I need to know before the procedure?

You should not eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before your procedure. On the morning of your procedure, you should take all your morning medications with a small sip of water.

General discharge instructions

  • You have received sedation/anesthesia for your procedure, and that medication may still be in your system. We would like for you to take it easy the first day.
  • Do not drive and avoid drinking alcohol. 
  • You may remove the bandage and shower the day after the procedure and start to resume regular activities. Do not soak the puncture site for two weeks (no tub bathing, swimming or getting into a hot tub).
  • You may drive 24 hours after the procedure, as long as you have not been restricted for another reason.
  • For five days following the procedure, do not exercise, lift objects greater than 10 pounds or do any strenuous activity. 
  • If you take Glucophage (metformin or metformin products), do not take it for two days after the angiogram; on the third day, start again as prescribed.
  • Keep the puncture site clean and dry. Check it for redness, pain, swelling and a lot of bleeding or drainage. Call us if this happens.

What should I expect while recovering?

You may have soreness, a bruise or a knot near where the needle was inserted for a few days to a few weeks. This is normal.

Check the spot where the needle was put in for redness, pain, swelling and a lot of bleeding or drainage. Call us if this happens.

You may use over-the-counter medications such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) for minor discomfort, unless restricted for some other reason.


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