The Benefits and Risks of A Spinal Angiogram

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: December 27, 2018

Pain, neck, whiplash.

A spinal angiogram is a technique that uses an x-ray to look at the blood vessels of a person’s spine. It’s usually performed to look for abnormalities in the blood vessels or to look for signs of a vascular tumor. It’s a little more hands-on than a traditional x-ray, and it does involve a minor procedure, so it does carry a few more risks. That said, the benefits of the information it can provide almost always outweighs the potential drawbacks. We sort through the benefits and drawbacks of a spinal angiogram in today’s blog.

Spinal Angiogram Benefits

A spinal angiogram has numerous benefits for both the patient and provider. The minimally invasive procedure involves placing a catheter in your leg through a very small incision and into a blood vessel. A dye is then inserted through the catheter so that the blood vessels can be seen on an X-ray. X-rays are taken from several angles to learn everything possible about the blood vessels of the spine.

Some benefits of the procedure include:

  • An angiogram provides a very detailed and accurate picture of the blood vessels of the spine.
  • Catheter insertion allows physicians to highlight only the blood vessels they wish to assess, which makes understanding potential problems easier.
  • By using a catheter, diagnosis and treatment can sometimes be combined, especially if the problem is being caused by narrowing blood vessels. This would allow surgeons to insert a blood vessel stent.
  • There is no other non-invasive procedure that can provide as much clear detail as an angioplasty.
  • It can highlight a number of different potential problems, from narrowing or dilated blood vessels, to bleeding or vessel hardening.

Spinal Angioplasty Risks

Like all surgical procedures, the technique is not without potential risks. These complications are few and far between, and although surgeons work hard to control for them, in rare cases they can occur. Some potential complications include:

  • Allergic reaction to the contrast (about 1 in 50,000 or more).
  • Stroke due to clot formation around catheter.
  • Kidney injury when contrast is eliminated through urine (more common in diabetics, but still very rare).
  • Injury to blood vessel wall.
  • Delayed bleeding at the site of catheter insertion.
  • Side effects of radiation exposure.

It can’t be understated how rare these complications are, but not every patient will have a perfect procedure. However, in the hands of a skilled surgical team with a clear plan of how to reduce risk, we’re confident that your procedure will run as smoothly as possible. For more information about spinal angiograms, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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