Anatomy and Procedures
Head, Neck and Spine   Abdomen
Upper Extremities   Pelvis and Lower Extremities
Chest (Pulmonary and Cardiac)   Lymph System

The protocols for the procedures listed may vary from institution to institution. The procedure may be done differently than what is covered in this review. Filming and injection rates may also vary. You should check with your institution prior to performing any of the procedures so that you may follow their approved protocol.

In Cardio-Vascular and Interventional Radiology, there are a large number of procedures that you will assist with. For the anatomy and procedures section, we will start from the head and work our way down. We will try to use as many x-rays as possible to illustrate anatomy. These are brief reviews of the procedures, and all procedures may not be covered. For each procedure listed we will cover indications, contraindications, and risk of complication.

Head, Neck and Spine

Cerebral Angiograms (head and neck)

Indications: Contraindications:
Stroke Elderly Patients
TIA Contrast Allergy
Aneurysm Uncontrolled Hypertension
AVM Poor Renal Function
Tumor Coagulopath
Hemorrhage Severe Hemorrhage
Subclavian Steal  
To perform a cerebral angiogram, you would access the patient's artery (either femoral or brachial) using the Seldinger Technique. The femoral approach is the most frequent. If performing the angiogram for trauma, atheriosclerosis, subclavian steal, stroke, or TIA, you would first do an arch run. This is usually done with a pigtail catheter positioned in the arch of the aorta.
This is done to see the anatomy of the arch and, if, for trauma, we are looking for an aortic arch dissection. A 6 FR pigtail catheter is commonly used for a trauma so that you can get a big injection. After the arch run, you need to exchange catheters. First, you would re-insert the wire (common wires used here are the 3mm J or an LT). Once the wire is over the arch you can remove your catheter. You would then replace the pigtail with a Vertebral catheter. Or if the carotids look difficult to access, you might use a Simmons catheter. With the Simmons, you need to reform the catheter in the aorta before you can selectively catheterize the carotids.
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System
The first artery that you select is usually the one that is in question (but it is not required to do that vessel first). After selecting the carotid artery, you would leave your catheter just below the bifurcation. This way you will get a good look at the carotid bifurcation before you put any wires or catheters in it. For the best view of the bifurcation you would usually do an LAO if you were in the left, and an RAO if you were in the right. Because of some patients. vascular anatomy, you may need to do the opposite oblique. You should always try to show the vessels in more than one projection. We could also do a lateral run. This is one of the best views of the carotid bifurcation. Some physicians may also do an AP. All of these views will help to assess the amount of stenosis.
After you have taken a good look at the bifurcation, you can visualize the vessels in the head. If this were for a stroke or TIA, you would leave the catheter where it is and do two views centered over the head (Towne and Lateral). If you were doing this to look at an aneurysm, then you would select either the Internal or External Carotid (usually the Internal). If you have difficulty getting into the Internal Carotid, you can use a coated wire (i.e. Glidewire) to help get your catheter into the artery. Towne and Lateral views are done here also, but you need to do additional views to "unfold" the vessels. Some additional views may be a Transorbital Oblique, SMV, or Houghton.
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System
Towne Carotid Lateral Carotid
1. Internal Carotid
2. External Carotid
3. Anterior Cerebral
4. Middle Cerebral
1. Internal Carotid
2. External Carotid
3. Anterior Choroidal
4. Anterior Cerebral
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System

A cerebral angiogram isn't complete until you look at the posterior circulation also. Here you need to select one of the Vertebral arteries, whichever one looked easiest on the Arch run. If you are unable to get into either Vertebral, you can leave your catheter in the Subclavian artery. If you do this, you will need to put a blood pressure cuff up on the same side that you are in (left Subclavian, left arm). The most common views here are the Towne and Lateral, but you would be centered more over the back of the head than the center.

Towne Vertebral Lateral Vertebral
1. Vertebral
2. Posterior Inferior Cerebellar
3. Anterior Inferior Cerebellar
4. Basilar
5. Posterior Cerebral
1. Vertebral
2. Posterior Inferior Cerebellar
3. Basilar
4. Superior Cerebellar
5. Posterior Cerebral
6. Occipital
7. Posterior Temporal
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System

For patient positioning in cerebral angiography, you would basically keep the patient's head in one position and move your imaging device. On the lateral views, you would center your central ray just above the patient's ear in the center of his or her head. If you were positioning for a lateral Vertebral artery, you would center slightly lower on the patient's head (you want to include posterior circulation). On the frontal views, for the Towne you would rotate your tube 15 to 20 degrees caudal. For the Transorbital Oblique, the imager would be rotated caudal 15-30 degrees and LAO or RAO 10-20 degrees. With the SMV, you would need to tilt the patient's head back as far as possible and then rotate your tube caudal approximately 30 degrees. On the Houghton view you would need to tilt the top of the patient's head toward his or her shoulder and rotate the tube lateral (then move the whole c-arm oblique).


Since you have a catheter in the blood vessels feeding the patient's brain, you can have some complications. If a piece of plaque is knocked loose the patient may have a stroke or TIA, seizures due to a toxic chemical effect from the contrast media, paralysis, vascular spasm, bleeding at the puncture site, hematoma, or death. All of these complications are possible and not necessarily seen. But limiting the amount of contrast, and the amount of time for the procedure, you will reduce the risks.

Injection Rates:   Amount of Contrast
  Arch 20-40 ml
  Common Carotid 8-12 ml
  Internal and External Carotid 4-9 ml
  Vertebral 6-10 ml
  Subclavian 8-15 ml


Filming Rates:      
  Arch Digital 3/3, 1/3-5
  Common Carotid Digital or Cut Film 2/3, 1/10, .5/rest of time


Artery Sizes (approximate, average)-    
  Common Carotid 7-8 mm
  Internal Carotid 5 mm
  External Carotid> 4 mm
  Vertebral (one is usually larger) 5-6 mm
  Subclavian Varies, can be up to 14mm

Besides diagnostic procedures, you can also do interventions in the head. With interventions, the complication rate can rise drastically due to the disruption of blood flow to the brain. Embolization can be done for AVM or tumors. Balloon Angioplasty or stenting of Carotid or Subclavian arteries for stenosis. Thrombolysis can also be performed for an occlusion (but extreme caution must be used so that you don't cause bleeding in the brain).

Subclavian Steal Syndrome-

Flow is reversed in the Vertebral artery. This is caused from a blockage in the Subclavian artery near the Vertebral artery. The blood is shunted past the brain through the Circle of Willis and then to the Vertebral artery. The reverse flow in the Vertebral artery fills the Subclavian artery. If looking for Subclavian Steal on the Arch run, you should film out longer.

  Circle of Willis  
1. Vertebral
2. Anterior Inferior Cerebellar
3. Basilar
4. Superior Cerebellar
5. Posterior Cerebral
6. Posterior Communicating
7. Middle Cerebral
8. Internal Carotid
9. Ophthalmic
10. Anterior Cerebral
11. Communicating
12. Hypothalamic
13. Anterior Choroidal

Neuroangiographers also do spinal angiograms. These are not very frequent. They are usually done to visualize the vascular supply to spinal tumors. On spinal angiograms you would select each spinal artery, both left and right.


Myelograms are usually done for stenosis in the spinal column. They are not as frequent now because of MRI. Some surgeons still request myelograms for pre-op. Two great guides on this subject are: How to do a Lumbar Myelogram and How to do a Cervical Myelogram, both by Dr. Robert Dalley, Neuroradiologist UW Medical Center. These guides are what the radiology residents receive on their neuroradiology rotation.

Indications: Contraindications:
Tumors Recent lumbar puncture
Cord compression Papilledems
Nerve Impingement Increase cranial pressure
Spina Bifida Contrast reaction

The patient is placed on his or her stomach for a myelogram. Scout films are taken, PA and cross table lateral for the lumbar myelogram. For a cervical myelogram you need to take PA, cross table lateral and cross table lateral swimmers (this view is to see C7 and T1). The puncture can be made lumbar or cervical. The lumbar puncture can be done even if the patient is getting a cervical myelogram. The puncture is usually made at L3-4 disc space. The spinal cord ends at L2. A local anesthetic is injected at the puncture site prior to making the puncture with the spinal needle. The spinal needle (usually 22g) is inserted into the patient's spinal column (in the subarachnoid space). When you think that you are in the subarachnoid space, you would remove your stylet and check for CSF (cerebral spinal fluid) flow. If you have flow you can then inject contrast. If you don't have flow you can take a cross table lateral view to check depth. You can also have the patient cough to see if you get flow return that way.

If you have to do a cervical puncture, there are a couple of ways it can be done. If you have a c-arm, you can have the patient lay on his or her stomach. Your puncture would be behind and just below the ear (C1). If you don't have a c-arm, you would have the patient lie on his or her side. After you have the needle in place, you would need to log roll the patient unto his or her stomach. As you can tell, this type of puncture carries more risk. If you do a lumbar puncture for a cervical myelogram, you would need to place either shoulder restraints or ankle restraints on the patient. They will need to be tilted head down to get the contrast into their cervical spine.

The contrast of choice for myelograms is non-ionic. The old oil based contrast is no longer used. This decreases some of the risk factors for the procedure. With cervical myelograms, you would use Isovue or Omnipaque 300, approximately 15-18cc. For a lumbar myelogram, you would use Isovue or Omnipaque 180 or 200, approximately 15-18cc. Once the contrast is in place the physician will remove the needle and take spot films. Some common views are AP, Lateral and multiple Obliques (steep and shallow). After the physician is done with these films, you will need to take the same films you took for scouts. With the lumbar myelogram, some physicians may require you to do a conus view. This is where the spinal cord ends and it looks similar to a cone shape (around L1-2). Usually AP and lateral views are done. If the patient is getting a cervical myelogram, the head and neck will need to be hyper extended to avoid contrast entering the head. This would cause a very intense headache.

After the myelogram, the patient should stay in bed for 4-6 hours. This is to make sure the puncture site closes. After taking all of the overhead films, the patient will go to CT for the rest of the procedure. In CT they will take images through the disc spaces, usually 5cm cuts. By combining the myelogram with a CT, you get more information for the surgeons.

Headache (most common)
CSF leak


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Upper Extremities

Indications: Contraindications:
A-V fistula (arterial venous) Contrast allergy
Trauma Poor renal function
Tumor Coagulopath
Aneurysm Uncontrolled Hypertension
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Elderly
Occlusive disease  

To gain access to the arteries in the upper extremities, you would either puncture femoral or brachial using the Seldinger Technique (explained in Section 1). With the femoral approach, the catheter passes through the Aortic Arch. With this approach you need a longer catheter, approximately 100cm. A catheter with a slight angle works well here, like a Vertebral or Headhunter. The catheter is usually left in the Subclavian artery for most of the runs.

1. Subclavian Artery
2. Brachial Artery
3. Radial recurrent Artery
4. Ulnar recurrent Artery
5. Ulnar Artery
6. Radial Artery
7. Deep Palmar Arch
8. Superficial Palmar Arch
9. Digital Arteries

Care must be taken when injecting contrast because the patient may experience pain. It is best to use non-ionics like Visopaque 320. A common injection rate for most of the runs would be 5-20 cc. Filming is done in stations/steps, starting with the upper arm (including the Subclavian artery/shoulder area). You will gradually work your way down to the patient's hand. In some stations/steps you may need multiple views. You can either rotate the c-arm or have the patient turn his or her arm. Filming can be done either digital or with cut film. They both work well. Digital takes less time to set up. Once you reach the patient's hand you will need to magnify to better visualize the hand arteries.

Filming rate:  
  1 film/sec. for 5-6 secs., then 1 film every other sec for about 8 secs.


Thoracic Outlet Syndrome-

The patient has arm pain, numbness, weak pulse, and decrease of blood pressure in that arm, bruit, cold or blue hand. This is usually caused from a rib compressing the Subclavian artery or vein. It can also be from abnormalities of the Scalene muscle, vertebrae, or clavicle. Thoracic Outlet is a compression of the Brachial Plexus, Subclavian artery or vein between the clavicle and first rib. Images are performed with the arm in neutral position and hyperextended (in a position that is known to cause the symptoms).

If performing the upper extremity angiogram for an A-V fistula (like problems with dialysis) the fistula is stuck directly. Contrast can be hand injected or injected with an injector. If the patient comes to you with needles inserted from dialysis, then hand injecting is the best choice. If you have to access the fistula yourself then you may use an injector. When you are planning on performing an intervention it is best to access the fistula in the angio suite. Then you have a clean stick.

If indicated, you may have to do an intervention in the upper extremity. This may include percutaneous transluminal angioplasty, stenting or thrombolysis. These would, of course, depend on the indications and the findings from your angiogram.

Catheter malposition
Nerve Root damage



Indications: Contraindications:
Edema Contrast allergy
Trauma Poor Renal function
Tumor Coagulopath
SVC Obstruction Uncontrolled Hypertension

For an upper extremity venogram, you would access it distally with a small butterfly needle (19 or 21 g). After the needle placement, test inject with saline to make sure the needle is positioned correctly in the vein. When injecting in the venous system, hand injections work well. Digital is easier to control. A common complication would be extravasation of contrast.

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Pulmonary Angiogram-

Indications: Contraindications:
Suspicion of Pulmonary Embolism Recent MI
on VQ Scan Contrast Allergy
Pulmonary Hypertension Left Bundle Branch Block
AVM Pulmonary Hypertension
Tumor Coagulopath

To look at the pulmonary arteries you need to puncture (gain access) through the venous system. There are several ways to gain access for a pulmonary angiogram. It can be done through the upper extremity (right), femoral or jugular veins. With the femoral approach, it will be easier to select the pulmonary arteries.

Prior to the pulmonary angiogram you need to make sure that the patient does not have a left bundle branch block. To get to the pulmonary arteries, you need to pass your catheter through the right side of the patient's heart. If they have a left bundle branch block you will cause a complete heart block. The catheter of choice for most pulmonary angiograms is the Grollman or Van Amen pigtail.

With most pulmonary angios you will look at both sides of the lungs. The right lung has three (3) lobes and the left lung has two (2) lobes. AP and oblique views are done. An LAO or RPO view for the left lung (30-45 degrees). An RAO or LPO (10-15 degrees) for the right lung.

Right Pulmonary Arteries Left Pulmonary Arteries
1. Right Main Pulmonary
2. Basilar Segmental Branches
1. Left Main Pulmonary
2. Basilar Segmental Branches
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System


Catheter travel (Femoral approach)-

The catheter passes up the IVC (Inferior Vena Cava) into the right atrium through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle, to the pulmonary valve and into the pulmonary artery. When manipulating the catheter you need to watch the patient's EKG. The catheter movement through the heart may cause abnormalities.

Usually, prior to each injection of contrast, pulmonary pressures are taken. It is a good idea to do these prior to the run just in case the catheter "kicks" out on injections. Pulmonary artery pressures average 8-25 mmHg with a mean of 13 mmHg. The contrast injections are between 30 and 50 ml. Filming is 2 to 4 frames/second for 4 seconds and then 1 frame/second out at least 4 seconds or more.


If a PE (pulmonary embolism) is seen, the patient's physician needs to decide if the patient should be anticoagulated or have a filter placed. If the decision is to use a filter, a Vena Cavagram is done to see where the patient's renal veins are and to assess any clot in the iliac veins. It is important to know where the patient's renal veins are so that you do not cover the opening with the filter. For ease of placement a ruler can be placed under the patient prior to the Vena Cavagram. You can then look at the position of the renal veins and the corresponding number on the ruler.

The filter may be placed suprarenal or infrarenal (above or below the renal veins). If the patient has a duplicated cava, then you would want to place the filter suprarenal. If the patient has a known clot in the iliac veins, you can place the filter with a jugular approach. There are a variety of filters available (see the equipment and supplies section for types of filters). Filters come loaded differently for femoral and jugular approaches. If you place a jugular filter femorally, the filter will be upside down and will not be effective. It is important to read the label closely. A jugular Bird's Nest filter can be placed femorally because of the design and shape of the filter. If the introducer were long enough, you could place the femoral Bird's Nest filter jugular. However, in most cases the catheter is too short.


Cardiac Related
Air Emboli
Blood Clot knocked loose
Filter Migration

Cardiac Cath-

Indications: Contraindications:
Angina Congestive Heart Failure
Highly Positive Excerise Tolerance Test Hypertension
Pre-OP Evaluation Hypokalemia
Silient Ischemia Arrhythmias
Coronary Spasm Infection
Atypical Chest Pain Electrolyte Imbalance
Recurrent Symptons post Bypass Anemia
Valvular Heart Disease Stroke
Congenital Heart Disease Fever
Cardiomyopathy Contrast Allergy
Heart Transplant Renal Insufficiency

Cardiac catheterization is done using either the brachial or femoral approach. The brachial approach is also known as the Sones. It was originally done with a cutdown at the antecubital, but it may also be done with a percutaneous approach. The femoral approach is also known as the Judkins. This is most commonly used for left heart catheterization.

Left Heart Cath- Right Heart Cath-
The catheter is introduced arterial. The catheter is advanced through the aorta into the left ventricle The catheter is introduced venous. Usually used to measure pressures (endhole or Swan-Ganz Catheter).
Indications: Indications:
Coronary Artery Disease Congestive Heart Failure
Myocardial Ischemia (MI) Valvular Disease
Cardiomyopathy Cardiomyopathy
Congential Heart Disease Pericardial Disease
Transplant Right Venticular Dysfunction


*For hemodynamic pressures see Section 3- Patient Care.

Since the heart is always moving (and you can't hold it still by having the patient hold his or her breath) you need to film it at a high speed. For Cardiac Cath Cine is used. Most cardiac filming is done at 30 frames a second.


Right Coronary Artery
LAO 45
To profile Right Coronary Artery body
RAO 30
Profiles Posterior Descending and allows identification of Conus and SA node branches
LAO 45, CR 30 Cranial
Posterior Descending and Right Coronary Artery bifurcation and distal branches
Contrast Injection- 2-3 cc/second for a total of 4-8 cc


Left Coronary Artery
Left Main, Mid Left Anterior Descending and Circumflex
  RAO 10
Left Main, Mid and Distal Left Anterior Descending and Distal Circumflex
RAO 30
Mid and Distal Left Anterior Descending, Mid and distal Circumflex
RAO 30, CR 30 Caudal
Left Main, bifurcation of Left Main, Proximal Circumflex, Proximal Left Anterior Descending, Mid Circumflex
RAO 30, CR 30 Cranial
Seperates Diagional from Left Anterior Descending
LAO 45
Mid to Distal Left Anterior Descending, seperates Diagional from Left Anterior Descending
LAO 45, CR 30 Cranial
Bifurcation Left Main, Left Anterior Descending seen well
  Caudal 30
Left Main bifurcation, entire Circumflex, Obtuse Marginal
Cranial 30
Left Anterior Descending elongated
Contrast Injection- 3-4 cc/second for a total of 6-10 cc



Right Ventricle Left Ventricle
Done for right to left shunting, pulmonary stenosis, tricuspid regurgitation, pulmonary outflow Septal defects, mitral regurgitation. Pressure measurements
Injection- 15 cc/second for 50cc Injection- 12-15 cc/second for 35-50 cc

Root Injections-

These injections are done for the following indications: Aortic Valve regurgitation, Ostial lesions, to evaluate coronary grafts, and dissecting aneurysms. When injected, you will see both the left and right Coronary Arteries.

Myocardia Ischemia (MI)
Vascular Injury
Vasovagal Reaction
Cardiac Perforation

Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA) or Stenting-

Pressures are taken prior to and during PTCA. The patient is anticoagulated to prevent blood clots from forming. The patient must be monitored carefully during balloon inflation. If the stenosis isn't improved with balloon angioplasty then a stent may be placed. The stent is mounted on a balloon catheter and placed the same way that you would perform a balloon angioplasty.


Stenotic valves can also be balloon angioplastied like PTCA, except that the balloons are much larger, stents are not used, and the re-stenosis rate is very high.

Endomyocardial Biopsy-


The biopsy catheter is advanced into the Right Ventricle through a guiding catheter. The biopsy catheter is then advanced out of the guiding catheter and a tissue sample is taken from the septal wall.

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Can be done with a Runoff (Femoral Angiogram), Renal Angiogram or Visceral Angiogram.

Contrast Injection:   Filming: 2 films a second for 4 seconds then
  20-40 ml   1 film a second for 3 seconds then
      1/2 film a second for 20 seconds


Renal Arteriogram-

Indications: Contraindications:
Renal Mass Renal Failure
Hypertension Pulmonary Edema
Renal Artery Stenosis Hypertension
Kidney Donor  

A renal arteriogram may be done with either a femoral or an axillary approach. The femoral approach is more popular. A multisidehole catheter (pigtail catheter is most common) is advanced up the aorta and positioned with the sideholes just above the renal arteries (usually L1). AP and Oblique views (to rotate the renal artery origins off the spine) are obtained. The renal artery can be selectively catheterized for intervention (PTA, stenting or embolization) with catheter shapes like the cobra or RC2.

If an intervention were going to be performed (like embolization done for pre-kidney removal for transplant or for renal mass) then you would advance the catheter into the renal artery or a branch off the main renal artery. This may also be done for aneurysm, AVM or trauma. Once you have selected the area to be embolized, then you can deploy your embolization material. For trauma it is common to use Polyvinyl alcohol. You may also embolize with gelfoam or coils.

If the intervention is for stenosis, then you will need to cross the stenosis with a wire. Once you cross the stenosis you should leave something (like the wire) across for the whole procedure. It is common to have spasm here. With the wire across the stenosis you will still be able to get your balloon, or stent, across. Prior to the angioplasty, the patient should take 10mg of Nifedipine orally. You can also place an inch and a half of Nitropaste on the patient's chest. You should also have some Nitroglycerine mixed just in case you have spasm. Some lesions may be stented directly instead of PTA first. After the PTA, the patient should be monitored closely to watch his or her blood pressure. It may drop because of the increased blood flow to the kidney. Some institutions require the patient to go to the intensive care unit overnight.

AP Aortogram
1. Celiac
2. Renal Arteries
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System


One of the newer procedures being performed is the Stent Graft. This is an endovascular repair of the artery, usually an aneurysm. This procedure is still relatively new and has not been started in many institutions. The cost and time to get the institution set up for these procedures can be expensive. Many of the institutions are remodeling, and replacing angiography equipment at the same time, so that they can do these procedures. The angio suite needs to be setup as an operating room for the procedure. If the room is not setup that way, some institutions are performing the procedure in the operating room with portable c-arms. As you can guess, this is not optimal. Prior to having an AAA stent graft placed, that patient needs to be worked up for the procedure. The patient needs a recent CT that documents the aneurysm and will need to get an angiogram. You may hear the angiogram referred to as a calibrated angio. Certain images are required to determine if the patient is a candidate for this procedure and to measure the inside of the aneurysm.

When an aortogram is done, usually about 30 ccs of contrast is required to fill the aneurysm sac. A typical pigtail catheter is not used here; a calibrated or graduated sizing pigtail catheter is used. This catheter has measuring beads along the shaft in 5mm and 1mm increments. After acquiring the AP view, a spot film of the lateral is done. This is to measure the angulation of the aorta. A lateral view with contrast can also be done, if needed, for the visceral arteries to check for patency. The catheter should then be pulled down and an AP and both obliques of the pelvis are done. A lateral view of the pelvis is needed to also check the angulation. This should be done with the catheter in the same position as the AP. If the iliac arteries are torturous then you should perform a guide wire test. This is done by putting a superstiff guidewire in and taking a spot film to see how well the arteries straighten.

With some patients, their aneurysm may extend into the internal iliac arteries and it may be necessary to embolize them prior to the stent graft procedure. This is to help with sealing the graft so that the aneurysm doesn't fill from the internal iliac arteries. After all of the films have been taken, and any arteries embolized, the patient can be taken off of the angio table. The interventional radiologist will review the films and take special measurements. These measurements will determine what size stent grafts are needed. All of the necessary supplies are ordered and the patient is scheduled for the procedure. The supplies that you need with depend on the brand of stent graft you are using. You will get a list once you get on a protocol with one of the companies.

The room is surgically prepared if the angio suite is used to place the stent graft. An anesthesiologist will sedate the patient. The sedation commonly used is a spinal, or epidural. Some anesthesiologists may be more comfortable with a general anesthetic. Because of the size of the introducer that the stent grafts come on, a cut down is needed on both groins. This is done by the Vascular Surgeon, who will be assisting during the procedure. Once access is gained, the interventional radiologist will reconfirm the positioning for the stent graft. After determining that the position is correct, the stent graft will be deployed. You will bring a wire through the opening from the other groin for the limb of the graft. Once you are sure that the wire is inside of the graft, you will deploy the limb of the graft. An aortogram is done to check for filling of the aneurysm. If the aneurysm still fills, then you will need to determine if it is filling from the top or bottom end. You may need to angioplasty the ends or place an extender cuff. Once the aneurysm no longer fills, you are finished and the patient is followed up with CT.

Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD)-

Fibromuscular Dysplasia is the cause of hypertension in one-third of hypertensive women. It is usually found in the branch arteries and responds well to angioplasty.



Visceral Arteriogram-

Indications: Contraindications:
Mesenteric Ischemia Elderly Patients
Aneurysm Contrast Allergy
AVM Uncontrolled Hypertension
Portal Hypertension Poor Renal Function
Intestinal Angina Coagulopath
Mesenteric Thrombosis  
Vascular Injury  


1. Celiac (found around T12-L1)
2. Splenic
3. Hepatic
4. SMA (found around L1)
5. IMA (found around L2-L3)
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System


An aortogram is performed, usually AP and Lateral. The lateral is done to see the origins of the visceral arteries (Celiac, SMA, and IMA). An oblique view may be required to see the origin of the SMA (superior mesenteric artery). PTA may be performed if there is a stenosis in the mesenteric arteries (SMA or IMA). But many visceral angiograms are done because of GI bleeding, and you may be required to embolize if you see the bleed. Embolization is usually done with coils and gelfoam in the visceral arteries. You would, of course, want to select the vessel feeding the bleed first.



Transjugular Intra-Hepatic Portal Systemic Shunt (TIPS)-

Indications: Contraindications:
Portal Hypertension Coagulopathy
Bleeding Varicies Elderly
Ascites Liver Failure


You would use a transjugular approach here. After getting access into the patient. s Internal Jugular vein, you would pass your catheter down the Vena Cava into the Hepatic vein. Once in the Hepatic vein, you can do a Wedged venogram and measure pressures. Normal Wedged pressure is 5mm. The Wedged venogram is to see the patient's portal system to check if it is open. Once you have the venogram, you can advance your needle through the hepatic vein into the liver parenchyma and into the portal vein. Once you are in the portal vein, you can advance your wire and then dilate and stent your shunt. The patient should have routine follow-ups with ultrasound after this procedure to monitor the shunt for patency.



Percutaneous Abscess Drainage-

Indications: Contraindications:
Increased WBC Location
Fever Size
Walled off Abscess seen on CT Coagulopathy

The patient may need to be aspirated or have a drainage catheter placed. If the area is small, and the requesting service wants to check for infection first, you can just aspirate it and send a sample to the lab. If they want a catheter placed, you can do this in CT. One advantage of placing the catheter with CT guidance is that you can see the path of the needle as you advance it to make sure you don't place the catheter through an organ.

If you are placing a drainage catheter, the patient should be on antiobiotics. A needle is advanced into the abscess, checking with CT to make sure you are in the correct space. You should use a large needle, like an 18g, so that you can place a .035 or .038 wire. This will make advancing the catheter easier. Once you are in the abscess, you can advance lots of wire into the space and remove your needle. You can then insert the catheter over the wire into the space. The catheter should be locked, or sutured, in place and a sample taken. The abscess should be aspirated and flushed well after placing the drain. Some of the abscess material may be thick and by flushing you will help loosen it up. The Interventionalist should see the patient each day on the floor and make sure the abscess is draining well. When the drainage stops, or is less than 10cc a day, you should have the patient come down for a sinogram.

Septic Shock


Percutaneous Biliary Drainage-

Indications: Contraindications:
Malginancy Acities
Biliary Obstruction Advanced Cirrhosis
Cholangitis Hepatic Metastises
Stones Liver Failure

The patient should be on antibiotics prior to this procedure. The patient should be placed supine on the table with the right arm above the head. For a right-sided puncture, you would insert the needle 2cm posterior to the midaxillary line at the eleventh intercostal space. Ultrasound may be used during placement. The needle should be 21 or 22g. This will cause less bleeding. Once you get bile return, you can inject contrast to see where you are in the biliary system. You will likely need to reposition to get better access to the biliary duct. For catheter placement, leave your needle in place and use a second needle to get into better position. Once you are in good position you can advance a wire and remove the needles. Your catheter will be placed over the wire and, if you are going to put this patient on internal and external drainage, you should advance your catheter to the duodenum. This will give you better drainage. If the patient has a stricture in the biliary system, you can dilate this during catheter placement. You may also need to stent it. The stricture is usually due to a tumor compressing the biliary system. If the patient has a tumor, it may grow through a stent.

  Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System


If the patient has stones in his or her biliary system, you may be required to retrieve them with a basket or snare. Biliary drainage procedures are less frequent these days because many of the patients can be done with an ERCP.

Percutaneous Nephrostomy-

Indications: Contraindications:
Kidney Obstruction Bleeding

The patient should be placed on the table prone with the side of interest up. If this were because of stones, then you would access an upper pole calyx. Otherwise, you can access a middle or lower pole calyx. To gain access, you can use an access set like the accustick set from Boston Scientific. And you can use ultrasound guidance during catheter placement. The needle is advanced into the calyx. Air and contrast can be injected to check positioning. Once you are in good position, you can advance your wire and place your catheter. If the patient has a ureteral stenosis you may need to place a ureteral stent, either a nephroureteral or a double J. A double J stent is completely internal. One J is in the bladder and the other J is in the kidney. The nephroureteral stent has a pigtail in the bladder; a locking loop in the kidney, and the end of the catheter exits the skin. If the patient has stones, we sometimes do this catheter placement prior to PUL (percutaneous ureteral lithrotripsy). In that case, you would also need to leave a catheter in the bladder in addition to the catheter in the kidney.

  Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System


Percutaneous Gastrostomy-

Indications: Contraindications:
Long Term Feeding Gastric Outlet
Esophageal Obstruction Gastroesophegeal Reflux
  Enlarged Liver
  Prior Sugery with removal of part of the Stomach


The evening prior to the gastrostomy tube placement, the patient should drink approximately 500cc of thinned down barium. This will help visualize the colon. If the patient is unable to drink due to an obstruction, an NG tube should be placed and the barium given via the catheter tube. Be sure to flush the tube well after this procedure. When the patient comes to the angio suite the next day, they should have IV access and a NG tube. Once the patient is on the table you can ultrasound to see where the liver border is. You should fluoro the patient to see if the barium is in the transverse colon. If the barium has not reached the transverse colon, you can give the patient a barium enema on the table. The barium should be thinned down because you want to be able to see through it during the procedure. This procedure can also be done without barium by placing the catheter under CT guidance.

Percutaneous Gastrostomy Anatomy-

1. NG tube
2. Gastrostomy tube
3. Contrast in Stomach
4. Large Intestines
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System

Once you have the patient prepped and draped, you should inflate the stomach with air. This will distend the stomach, giving you a better target. Glucagon can be given to slow peristalsis. Stay sutures can be used to keep the stomach up against the abdominal wall. This will keep the stomach from pushing away when you insert the catheter. The stay sutures are on a needle. You would numb the site and insert the needle into the stomach. You should pull back on the syringe on the needle to see if you get air back. That will be a good indication that you are in the stomach. Contrast can also be injected to see if you have rugae. Once you have all the stay sutures in place you would insert your needle, check to see if you are in the stomach, and place a wire. The type and size of catheter will determine what we do next.

If you have a hydrophilic catheter, you may be able to insert it without first dilating the tract. There are a couple of different ways to dilate the tract. You can use serial dilators or you can use a high-pressure balloon (like a Blue Max). After the tract is dilated, a sheath is inserted. Some needles have a teflon sheath on them and you would not need to use another sheath. The catheter is inserted through the sheath. To help the catheter through the sheath you should slick it up with gel. Once the catheter is in the stomach, you can peel the sheath away and lock the catheter in place. This is done with either a balloon or a locking pigtail. The catheter can also be sutured in until the tract matures. The NG tube is removed, and the catheter should be placed to drainage until the next day.

Puncture of liver or colon
Placement of catheter in abdominal cavity


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Pelvis and Lower Extremities

Indications: Contraindications:
Ischemic Leg Renal Failure
Gangrene Contrast Allergy
Rest Pain Uncontrolled Hypertension
Claudication Bleeding Disorders

Gain access with a Femoral or Axillary approach and advance the catheter to the aortic bifurcation. A pigtail catheter is usually used to visualize the arteries in the pelvis. If you are going to look at both legs, it is a good idea to do oblique views of the pelvis first and save the AP view for the runoff. LAO (RPO) and RAO (LPO) views are done. The two obliques will help to lay out the internal and external iliacs. If both legs are being done, the catheter can be left at the birfurcation and the injection can be done from there. Lower extremity runoffs can vary on filming by each institution. Most are done as a digital runoff (the table will move and as you are doing the run you can see what is happening) or cut film (the table will move in stations/steps and you won't be able to see the films until you run them in the darkroom).

The digital runoff can be done automatic or interactive. With the automatic, you would do a run timing how long it takes for the contrast to reach the knees. You would then put that number into the settings, and the program will move the table in accordance with the settings. If it is interactive, you can control when and how fast the table moves. That way, if the contrast slows down when it hits the trifurcation, you can slow the table down. One way to help the flow of contrast is by placing a heating pad on the patient's feet prior to the runoff. This will increase circulation. If the patient has gangrene or open sores, then a heating pad is not indicated.

Injection Rates:   Amount of Contrast
  Pelvis 10-15 ml
  single leg 50-60 ml
  bilateral 80-100 ml


Filming Rates:    
  Pelvis 2/3-4, 1/6-10, .5/rest of time
  Runoff varies- with interactive you control it


Artery Sizes(approximate, average)-    
  Common Iliac 8-12 mm
  Internal Iliac 6-8 mm
  External Iliac 6-10 mm
  Femoral 6-8 mm
  Trifurcation Vessels 3-6 mm

On the lower extremities we can also perform interventions. Some common interventions are thrombolisis, percutaneous transluminal angioplasty, stenting, and embolization. Thrombolisis is indicated when the patient has a cold pulseless extremity. PTA and stenting are indicated when the patient has a stenosis or occlusion. Embolization is indicated when the patient has a vascular tumor or AVM.

Pelvis and Lower Extremities

1. Aortic bifurcation
2. Common Iliac Artery
3. Internal Iliac Artery
4. External Iliac Artery

Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System
1. Femoral Artery
2. Deep Femoral Artery
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System
Distal Thighs-
1. Femoral Artery
2. Stenosis
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System
1. Popliteal Artery
2. Anterior Tibial Artery
3. Peroneal Artery
4. Posterior Tibial Artery

Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System



Embolization can be performed on vascular tumors, AVM, or aneurysms. There are several types of embolization materials available (see equipment and supplies section). In the lower extremities you might use coils and gelfoam. You would selectively catheterize the vessel to be embolized. If it is a small vessel, you may need to use a tracker catheter. After placing your embolization material, you would wait a few minutes and then do an injection to make sure it is occluded.

Percutaneous Transluminal Angioplasty and Stenting-

Image of an Iliac angioplasty
In this image the balloon is inflated. As you can see the wire is positioned so that is stays above the lesion. That way if the PTA fails then you still have access. After PTA the blood vessel can spasm down.
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System
This is an image pre PTA
In between the radiopaque beads is the balloon catheter and you can see where the stenosis is.
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System
This is a post PTA/stent image

This is the same patient as below, but filmed with contrast. You can see how smooth the vessels look with the stents in place.

Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System
This is an image post stent placement
If you look carefully at the image you can see stents in both Iliac arteries. The radiopaque beads that you see in this image are the sheaths.
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System

Prior to performing an intervention, you should check with the Vascular Surgeon. Some stenosis are best for intervention and some need surgery. Pressure measurement can be taken to determine if there is a large enough gradient to warrent PTA. Pricoline can be given to simulate activity. The wire should be advanced past the stenosis and the balloon or stent advanced over the wire. After PTA or stenting, the wire should be left past the stenosis, and an injection should be done to check for residual stenosis. You might need to PTA again. If the vessel spasms you can inject nitro, but if you wait a few minutes the spasm may go away on it's own.

During PTA the pressure of the balloon cracks the plaque and stretches the wall of the artery out. You may need to inflate several times to get the artery open. If PTA fails then you can place a stent. The stent works in the same way as the PTA. The plaque is cracked and the wall of the artery stretched. It is very important during PTA or stenting that you measure the size of the artery first. You may risk tearing the artery and cause the patient to go to emergency surgery to repair the burst artery. You should also ask the patient how much pain they are having on a scale of one to ten. This will give you an idea of how well the artery is responding to PTA. If the patient says that the pain is a four, then you will need to PTA again. If it is a ten, then you should check and see what kind of results you got.

Sometimes patients come in with a cold pulseless extremity, so we evaluate their arteries. We may need to infuse medication to re-open their arteries. Some common causes of occlusion are tight stenosis, plaque breaks free and migrates, graft occlusion, and trauma. If a patient has had recent major surgery within the past 2 weeks, thrombolisis should not be performed. Another contraindication is head injury or Subdural bleed. The catheter is advanced as close to the occlusion as possible, and, if possible, into the clot. An infusion catheter is left in place, either one with multiple sideholes or just an endhole. Heparin and Urokinase or TPA can be infused through the catheter. Usually the Urokinase or TPA will go directly into the clot and heparin with go through a sheath or IV. The patient will need to go to an intensive care unit until the infusion is completed. The patient should return to the angio lab a couple of times a day to check the progress. The catheter may need to be repositioned. It is not uncommon for an infusion to go from 1 day to a week.



Distal Occlusion
Pre thrombolisis   Post thrombolisis
Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System   Courtesy of VA Puget Sound Health Care System


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Lymph System


Indications: Contraindications:
Neoplasm or Lymphoma Intracardiac shunt
Enlarged Nodes Pulmonary Disease
Staging Radiation Therapy to the lungs



A blue dye is injected between the toes to locate the lymph vessels (Methylene Blue or Lymphazurin). It may take up to 15 minutes for the lymph vessels to pick up the dye. Once you can see the lymph vessel, you will need to cut down to access it. This may be unilateral or bilateral. The lymph vessel should be lifted out slightly to isolate it and then canalized with a small lymph needle (27g). It is a special needle with tubing connected to it. Once you are in the lymph vessel, you can inject a small amount of contrast to test needle position. The tubing is connected to a glass syringe in some type of holder. The syringe is filled with the contrast - ethiodol (poppy seed oil). This contrast will eat through plastic. You need to use glass syringes and, if using any stopcocks, they need to be metal.
Once you connect to the syringe, lead weights are placed on the top of the plunger and the contrast is injected by gravity. If you inject too quickly, you can blow the lymph vessel. Some physicians like to suture the needle in place so that it doesn't fall out. Ethiodol works best when warmed, so it is a good idea to have some type of light up next to the syringe during the injection. Approximately 10cc are injected and this may take up to an hour.
If this is being done for staging, then you will take overhead films of the lower leg(s), pelvis, abdomen, and chest. You will take these films again in 24 hours. This is not done much these days because with CT you can stage the lymphoma more quickly and be less invasive. If this is to visualize a leak in one of the ducts, you could just fluoro the contrast. When it is in the right spot take the patient to CT.



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ęCopyright 2000 Leona Benson