Pulmonary angiography: a safe procedure with modern contrast media and technique

T Nilsson, A Carlsson, K Mâre
European Radiology 1998, 8 (1): 86-9
Pulmonary angiography (PA) for decades has been accepted as the gold standard for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism (PE). Apprehensions that the procedure is expensive, invasive and thus associated with both fatal and non-fatal complications has more or less limited its use to patients presenting a non-diagnostic lung scan. However, this opinion originates from earlier studies. Increasing clinical demands for faster and safer diagnostics, together with improved techniques and safer contrast media, has led to an increased use of PA. In order to evaluate the complication rate, we retrospectively studied the case records of 707 consecutive patients who had undergone PA. During 1990-1994, 728 patients underwent PA at Danderyd and Huddinge University Hospital. Selective pulmonary angiography (cine or digital subtraction angiography), non-ionic, low-osmolar contrast media and modern pigtail catheters were used. Standard volumes were 40 ml at 2 s for each injection. Pressure measurements were made in 376 patients. A test injection was made in all patients in order to assess the flow rate. Experienced radiologists as well as residents performed the examinations and a total of 707 angiography protocols and clinical records were available for review in search of complications associated with the procedure. No deaths occurred. One major non-fatal complication (bleeding in the groin requiring surgery) was reported in one case. Moderate/minor complications (i. e. transient angina and cardiac failure, minor haematomas, urticaria) occurred in 10 patients (1.4 %). With modern contrast media and technique, pulmonary angiography is a safe procedure.

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