Coronary angiography technique

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Coronary Angiography


General Principles

Historical Perspective
Appropriate Use Criteria for Revascularization
Film Quality

Anatomy & Projection Angles

Normal Anatomy

Coronary arteries
Right System
Left System
Left Main
Left Anterior Descending
Median Ramus

Anatomic Variants

Separate Ostia
Anomalous Origins
Case Example

Projection Angles

Standard Views
Left Coronary Artery
Right Coronary Artery

Epicardial Flow & Myocardial Perfusion

Epicardial Flow

TIMI Frame Count
TIMI Flow Grade
TIMI Grade 0 Flow
TIMI Grade 1 Flow
TIMI Grade 2 Flow
TIMI Grade 3 Flow
TIMI Grade 4 Flow
Pulsatile Flow

Myocardial Perfusion

TIMI Myocardial Perfusion Grade
TMP Grade 0
TMP Grade 0.5
TMP Grade 1
TMP Grade 2
TMP Grade 3

Lesion Complexity

ACC/AHA Lesion-Specific Classification of the Primary Target Stenosis

Preprocedural Lesion Morphology

Intimal Flap
Sawtooth Pattern
Ostial location
Proximal tortuosity
Degenerated SVG
Total occlusion
Coronary Artery Thrombus
TIMI Thrombus Grade
TIMI Thrombus Grade 0
TIMI Thrombus Grade 1
TIMI Thrombus Grade 2
TIMI Thrombus Grade 3
TIMI Thrombus Grade 4
TIMI Thrombus Grade 5
TIMI Thrombus Grade 6

Lesion Morphology

Quantitative Coronary Angiography
Definitions of Preprocedural Lesion Morphology
Irregular Lesion
Disease Extent
Arterial Foreshortening
Infarct Related Artery
Degenerated SVG

Left ventriculography

Quantification of LV Function
Quantification of Mitral Regurgitation

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]




Common Femoral Arterial Access is the most common arterial access for performing left heart catheterization. The original catheterization procedure was performed via brachial access. This site is still commonly used in patients with lower extremity peripheral access issues. Arm access also facilitates internal mammary access, especially in patients with tortuous innominant or subclavian arteries. Radial artery access is also used commonly in some practice settings. Before radial access is performed, competence of the radial artery arch should be assessed with the Allen Test. Use of pulse oximetry can facilitate interpretation of the test.

Anatomic landmarks are used to identify the correct site of arterial puncture. For the femoral artery access, the femoral head provides the best visible landmark. Arterial puncture at this site remains below the inguinal ligament, is generally above the bifurcation of the superficial femoral and deep femoral arteries, and allows for hemostasis. It is recommended that this site should be observed under fluoroscopy in any patient prior to access. In obese patients the inguinal skin crease is generally too low (see figure).

Femoral Crease in obese patient


After the administration of subcutaneous anesthetic, an 18G Cook needle is used to puncture the front wall of the artery. This technique is known as the modified Seldinger technique and prevents posterior arterial bleeding or venous communication from the puncture. Complications from arterial access include arterial dissection, AV fistula formation, retroperitoneal hemorrhage, and pseudoaneurysm formation.

Once access is obtained, the Cook needle is steadied while the artery is accessed with a wire through the lumen of the Cook needle. The Cook needle is then removed and a sheath is inserted into the artery. Under fluoroscopy, catheters are then introduced using an 0.35 J-tipped guide wire into the aortic root. The catheters are then attached to a 3 way manifold. Manifold use allows for continuous pressure monitoring, saline flush instillation, and contrast administration through the catheter tip.


Catheter selection for a routine left heart catheterization is generally straight forward.

Most often, Judkins catheter types are most routinely used. For engagement of the left main coronary artery, A Judkins Left size 4 (JL4) catheter generally will generally engaged the left coronary artery in most patients with relative ease. Increasing catheter size (JL5) for tall patients or patients with dilated aorta or decreasing size (JL 3.5) in small patients is sometimes required. Engagement of the LMT is usually most straightforward in the LAO projection. For extremely dilated roots or anomalous arteries other catheters such as Amplatz catheters can be used. For the right coronary artery, a Judkins Right Size 4 (JR4) is most often used. The right coronary artery is engaged in the LAO projection. Usually slow clockwise rotation of the JR4 in the aortic root will engage the ostium of the RCA. Specialized catheters are available to engage anomalous origins of coronary arteries and saphenous and internal mammary artery bypass grafts.

Once the artery is engaged, it is important to examine the pressure wave form. Normally, the waveform should mimic aortic root pressure. Dampening or ventricularization of the pressure waveform may indicate over engagement of the catheter or significant vessel stenosis. Extreme care should be taken before instillation of contrast medium without normal pressure waveforms.

Basics of Coronary Anatomy

The aortic valve is considered a tricuspid valve because it gives rise to 3 cusp or sinuses in the aortic root. The left coronary and right coronary cusps give rise to their respective coronary arteries while the non-coronary cusp which arises from the posterior root usually does not give rise to a coronary artery.

The major epicardial vessels supplying the myocardium are the left main coronary artery that divides into the Left anterior descending artery and Left Circumflex Artery, and the Right Coronary artery. These arteries lie on the epicardial surface and supply smaller branch vessels that eventually give rise to the microvascular network supplying the myocardium.

Coronary dominance is based on the vessel that gives rise to the posterior descending artery (PDA) which travels in the posterior interventricular groove and supplies the Atrio-ventricular node (AV node). This vessel, which can be recognized by the presence of septal perforating branches, arises from the RCA in 80% of the population and the LCx in 10% of the population. Co-Dominance of the arterial circulation is found in 10% of the population where the posterior interventricular artery is formed by both the RCA and LCx.

The Left main coronary artery or Left Main Trunk (LMT) originates from the left coronary cusp and bifurcates to give rise to the Left anterior descending (LAD) and Left Circumflex (LCx) coronary arteries. Occasionally, a third branch vessel, the Ramus Intermedius (RI) arises from the LMT. The LMT varies in length in many patients and in a small number of patients, the two major branch vessels arise from separate origins.

The Left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) provides blood supply to the anterior wall of the left ventricle. As it courses through the anterior intraventricular groove it provides multiple septal branches to the interventricular septum and diagonal branches to the anterior lateral wall. The LAD then courses to the ventricular apex and in some patients wraps around the apex to supply a small amount of the posterior apex.

The Left Circumflex coronary artery (LCx) courses around the lateral or left atrio-ventricular groove and gives rise to multiple marginal or lateral branches. The branches are termed obtuse marginal (OM) or lateral branches depending on institutional preference. OM branches are sequentially numbered (OM1, OM2 etc…) while Lateral branches are termed based on the segment of the lateral wall they supply (High Lateral, Lateral, Posterior Lateral). As the LCx courses the AV groove it also gives rise to several atrial branches, and occasionally the sino-atrial branch (40% of the population).

The right coronary artery (RCA) arises from the right coronary cusp. This vessel follows the right AV groove and provides branches to the right ventricle. The most proximal branches of the RCA are the conus-branch which supplies the right ventricular outflow tract and a branch that supplies the sino-atrial (SA) node (60% of patients). The RCA then courses through the interventricular and gives rise to marginal branches and branches to the atrium. [Manipulation of the coronary arteries in 3-dimensions via spacial reconstructions of the coronary arteries is helpful in interpreting coronary angiographic images.

Standard Angiographic Views

For the beginner angiographer the anatomic landmarks formed by the spine, catheter and diaphragm provide information to discern which tomographic view from which the image is obtained. In the LAO view (figure 1) the catheter and spine are seen on the right side of the image, while in the RAO (figure 2) they are found on the right. PA imaging (figure 3) places these landmarks in the center of the image. Cranial angulation can usually be distinguished from caudal angulation by the presence of the diaphragm. For cranial imaging, the patient should be asked to inspire to remove the diaphragmatic shadow from the image.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3