What is angiography?

Retinal angiography is a diagnostic procedure that images the blood vessels and other structures in the retina with the aid of an intravenous dye. It is not an x-ray. There is no exposure to radiation with this test.

What kind of dye is used?

The dye most commonly used is called fluorescein. It has been used for decades and it has an excellent safety record. It is much less likely to cause an allergic reaction than the dyes used by other types of specialists.

What is angiography used for?

Angiography is utilized in many retinal disorders, particularly those that involve a problem with the circulation in the back part of the eye. The most common indications for retinal angiography are diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and retinal vascular abnormalities (artery and vein occlusions, aneurysms, or retinal swelling due to leakage). Angiography can be used to narrow down a diagnosis, determine eligibility for treatment, or to assess the severity of a known condition.

How is retinal angiography done?

After explaining the purpose of the test, as well as risks and benefits, informed consent is obtained. The patient’s pupils are dilated with drops. A butterfly needle is used to inject a small amount of dye into a vein on the arm or hand. Within a few seconds the dye, carried by the bloodstream, enters the retinal circulation. Digital photographs are taken to view the retinal circulation in fine detail. The test takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. A band-aid is placed on the injection site and the pictures are available for immediate review.

What is the recovery period after retinal angiography?

The recovery period is no different than what is experienced after a dilated eye examination. It takes several hours for the dilating drops to wear off. During this time the eyes may be sensitive to bright sunshine. Patients can resume work, school, or their usual activities after retinal angiography. Fluorescein dye exits the body through the urine within 24 hours. The urine will be discolored bright yellow by the dye.

Are there any risks associated with retinal angiography?

Any procedure has some associated risk.  However, retinal angiography has proven to be a very safe diagnostic procedure.  The main risk is an allergic reaction to the dye.  Significant reactions to fluorescein dye are extremely rare.  Unlike the dyes used by other medical specialists, fluorescein dye has a very low rate of causing allergic reactions.  Nausea is not unusual but usually, passes within a few minutes.