KidsMD Health Topics

Cerebral Angiogram

  • A cerebral angiogram is a minimally invasive test that uses a special contrast solution (dye) and imaging technology to map the blood vessels in the brain. It is performed by radiologists who subspecialize in neurointerventional radiology, neuroradiology or interventional radiology.

    How Boston  Children’s Hospital approaches cerebral angiograms

    Cerebral angiography in children is different than in adults, because children have smaller and more delicate blood vessels. Our physicians are highly trained in using the specialized techniques and small catheters necessary for performing angiograms in children.

    In addition to the radiologist, your child will be cared for by a team of anesthesiologists, nurse practitioners, nurses, and technologists who specialize in caring for children undergoing interventional radiology procedures and treatments.

    We perform cerebral angiograms in our suite on the second floor of the hospital, which features three procedure rooms equipped with the latest imaging technology, a recovery area for patients who have received sedation or anesthesia, and examining rooms for outpatient visits.

    Contact Us

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue 
    Boston MA 02115 

    fax: 617-730-0541

  • When is a cerebral angiogram needed?

    Cerebral angiograms are used to investigate stroke, tumors, bleeding, vascular malformations and other suspected vascular disorders affecting the brain.

    How should I prepare my child for the procedure?

    Explain to your child in simple terms why the test is needed and what will happen. You can say that you will be close by and that he or she may bring a favorite toy or blanket into the procedure room.

    Some children need to come to the preoperative clinic for lab tests and exams by a nurse, anesthesiologist, and nurse practitioner. Please allow two to four hours for the preoperative visit.

    What will happen before the cerebral angiogram?

    A staff person from the hospital will call you a few days before the procedure with preparation instructions that will include dietary restrictions necessary for sedation or anesthesia. It is very important that you follow all of these instructions, or the procedure may need to be rescheduled.  When you arrive at the hospital:

    • The interventional radiologist or neuroradiologist will talk to you about the procedure and ask you to sign the consent form (You must be your child’s legal guardian to sign this form. If you are a legal guardian and not a parent, you must bring the paperwork showing proof of legal guardianship.)

    • Your child will change into a hospital gown

    • A nurse or anesthesiologist may start an intravenous (IV) line

    • Prior to the start of the angiogram you will be escorted to a special waiting area.

    What will happen during the procedure?

    • The radiology technologist will clean your child’s groin with antiseptic liquid that helps prevent infection and sterile drapes will be placed around the groin

    • If your child is not receiving a general anesthetic, local anesthetic will be injected into his/her groin to numb the area

    • A tiny incision will then be made by the radiologist usually at the crease of the hip

    • Through this incision, the radiologist will insert a needle into the appropriate blood vessel to provide access for insertion of a short arterial sheath

    • The sheath provides safe access for a long, thin tube (the catheter)

    • Under X-ray guidance, the radiologist will guide the catheter to the blood vessel being studied, and will then inject a special contrast solution through the catheter so that he or she can see your child’s blood vessels more clearly

    • Several X-rays may be taken. If awake, your child needs to hold his or her breath and keep very still during this part of the procedure

    • When the angiogram is finished, the radiologist removes the catheter and sheath and applies pressure to the groin. A small bandage will be placed over the tiny incision.

    • Your child is transferred to the recovery room, where a nurse will watch your child closely for four to six hours. During that time, he or she must lie still while not bending the leg; parents are welcome to be with their children in the recovery room.

    How will I learn the results?

    The radiologist will speak with you after the procedure and explain the findings and results.

    Is it safe?

    Cerebral angiograms are considered minor surgical procedures. They are generally safe, but as with any surgical procedure, carry some risk of complication. The doctor will explain potential side effects and complications before you are asked to consent to the procedure.

    During angiography, your child will be exposed to ionizing radiation (X-rays). While we strive to minimize exposure to X-rays, we believe that the benefit to your child’s health outweighs the exposure that occurs during the angiogram. Because children are more sensitive to radiation exposure than adults, we have been leaders in adjusting equipment and procedures to deliver the lowest possible dose to young patients.

  • As a national and international referral center for pediatric cerebrovascular disease, our physicians perform a significantly higher volume of cerebral angiograms and catheter-based brain and spine interventions in children than even the busiest adult centers.  Over the past two years, our neurointerventional specialists have performed almost 300 such procedures. Working closely with colleagues from neurosurgery, head and neck surgery, plastic surgery, and neurology, we provide the full range of diagnostic and treatment options, with the lowest accompanying risk available.

The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO