An Angiogram To Be Thankful For

So I went for an angiogram this morning to see if I had any blockages in any coronary artery, and if so, how bad it was, and if it was bad, whether to do a balloon angioplasty or place a stent inside.

The procedure involves threading a catheter through a vein in your wrist into your heart, and pumping a contrast dye so that the arteries can be photographed using an x-ray machine.

This was explained to me several times over two visits to the cardiologist’s but I don’t know why I had the impression I was going to be sedated or put under general anesthesia for the procedure. Turns out I had to be awake the whole time, and I was going to see the catheter going from an incision in my wrist into my heart, ‘live’ on the monitor next to me.

What was even weirder than seeing it on screen was to feel a very faint but disturbing ache in the arm and then in the chest as the catheter was being pushed into the heart, a process which took only about ten or so seconds after it was inserted into the wrist. It was a thrill seeing my own heart pumping and even more exciting to see the contrast dye mapping the arteries like some squid squirting ink into my heart. I had to keep reminding myself not to freak out and think of the very slight possibility of something going wrong.

Still, probably the most undignified thing to happen was the radiologist’s technician having to shave my groin because it had to be “put on stand-by” just in case the threading through the wrist didn’t work (in some cases the vein goes into a loop and the catheter can’t go any further). It was a dry shave with a disposable razor and I am still smarting from it, especially after they poured either saline or alcohol to disinfect the area. I wanted to scream but thought I’d better stay calm for the procedure.

The result of this morning’s medical adventure? A kinda sorta clean bill of health. There are no major blockages, only a slight narrowing in two coronary arteries – known as a “waist” – which require no treatment other than to continue on a healthy diet and start an exercise regime. I am relieved and grateful.