Panama Medical Vacations

Coming to Panama for an Angiogram

Coming to Panama for an Angiogram

An angiogram is a method of using x-ray images to examine the blood vessels in your body and when needed, placing a metallic cylinder in the artery to keep it open.  Typically, physicians utilize these procedures to examine and treat arteries in your brain, heart, abdomen, and legs that are narrow or blocked.

To create these images, a dye will be injected into your veins through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter.  He or she carefully threads the catheter into the affected artery or vein from a surgically prepared location.  This location is usually in your groin but can also be in your arm.  This dye, or contrast, allows the blood inside the blood vessels to appear on an x-ray.  Your body will eventually eliminate the contrast through your urinary system. In Panama, as elsewhere, your physician will recommend an angiogram to diagnose a variety of variety of reasons including:

  • Artery blockages outside your heart, also known as Peripheral Artery Disease.
  • Vein conditions such as Deep Venous Thrombosis or Pulmonary Emboli.
  • Deformed arteries known as vascular malformations.
  • Arterial conditions of the Kidneys called renovascular conditions.
  • Aneurysms (Enlargements of the arteries)
  • Aortic Arch conditions (Problems with the arteries leaving the Aorta)
  • To perform stenting. If a blockage or deformity of an artery or vein is found, the surgeon can insert a stent.  This metallic cylinder is used to open or reinforce the affected vessel.

Prior to Surgery

Any necessary precautions prior to surgery will be outlined for you in the treatment plan.  If you require pre-op therapy, you will receive the proper instructions.  If you are a smoker, you may be asked to stop for a time prior to your surgery.  You might also be asked to refrain from using vitamin E (in large doses), aspirin or anti-inflammatory medicines since they can lead to increased bleeding during surgery.

The Procedure

Your angiogram will be performed in an operating room equipped with a specialized x-ray machine.  You will receive an IV to provide fluids and medications.  Your surgeon will determine the best site to insert the catheter, generally entering an artery in your groin or near your elbow.  The site will first be cleaned and sterilized to reduce your risk of infection.  This skin will be numbed with a local anesthetic and a tiny opening will be made to access the artery below.  Using a hollow needle, your surgeon will insert a thin wire through the needle, attach a catheter over the wire, and direct it to the desired location.  X-rays will be taken that are shown on a video screen to see the catheter as it travels through your arteries.

Once your surgeon has the catheter in place, the contrast dye will be injected.  The contrast may briefly cause a warm feeling as it enters your bloodstream.  More x-rays will be taken to verify that the contrast is flowing through your arteries.  You may be asked to lie perfectly still during the procedure to prevent sudden movements from blurring the x ray pictures.  Once all of the necessary x-rays are taken, your catheter will be removed and pressure will be applied at the insertion site for 10 to 20 minutes to help stop bleeding.

An angiogram generally lasts about 1 hour if only x-rays are required.  The procedure may take longer if your surgeon needs to perform any stenting.

After your surgery

After the angiogram, the medical staff will monitor your condition for around 6 hours.  You will be advised to keep the arm or leg with the insertion site straight to minimize bleeding.  You will be given fluids to prevent dehydration and to flush the dye from your kidneys. Once any bleeding from the insertion site has stopped and your vital signs are normal, your surgeon will allow you to leave because your Panama angiogram with multiple stents is complete!

Once you have been released, you can eat normally, but you should continue to drink extra fluids for 1 to 2 days. For at least 12 hours after your angiogram, you should avoid physical activities such as climbing stairs, driving, and walking, especially if the insertion site was in your groin.  In a day or two you will be able to enjoy some of the pleasures and delights that Panama has to offer while you rest and recover.


An angiogram is generally very safe. Complications from an angiogram include bleeding, pain, or swelling where the catheter was inserted, and pain, numbness, or coolness in your arm or leg. Bruising at the insertion site is typical and usually resolves on its own. Rarely, impaired kidney function, or kidney failure, can occur following an angiogram, especially if you have already have kidney disease. Also rarely, severe allergic reactions can occur, especially among people who have had previous allergic reactions to the contrast dye.