A diagnostic spinal angiogram is a medical procedure that offers an extremely precise evaluation of the blood vessels surrounding the spinal cord. During a spinal angiogram, highly specialized doctors (called neuro-angiographers) are able to observe arteries and veins by using modern sophisticated imaging equipment. In order to take pictures of the blood vessels, a contrast medium (or "dye") is gently injected through a small, soft, and flexible tube called a catheter. This catheter is inserted in the groin and carefully advanced into the targeted blood vessel under the guidance of low dose x-rays.
As there is no sensation associated with the advancement of the catheter inside the blood vessels, diagnostic spinal angiography is generally performed under light sedation as an outpatient procedure (meaning that patients come for the procedure and go home the same day). the majority of patient do not need general anesthesia. When they do, it is generally because of associated medical conditions. In that case, the angiogram is still most often performed as an outpatient procedure.