Renal arteriography

Renal arteriography is a special x-ray of the blood vessels of the kidneys.

Renal arteriography is also called renal angiography.

See also: Renal venogram

How the Test is Performed

This test is done in the hospital. You will lie on an x-ray table.

The health care provider will clean and shave the area of the body (usually near the groin) and then place a needle into the artery. A local numbing medicine will be put on the area before the needle is inserted.

Once the needle is in the proper position, a thin wire passes through it. The needle is taken out, and a long, narrow, flexible tube called a catheter is put in its place. An instrument called a fluoroscope sends special x-ray images of the body to a TV monitor. The images help the radiologist guide the catheter into the right position. The catheter runs over the wire and is pushed up into the main blood vessels of the pelvis to the aorta (the main blood vessel running down from the heart to the lower body).

The test uses a special dye (called "contrast medium") to help the arteries show up better on the x-ray. The blood vessels of the kidneys are hard to see with ordinary x-rays. The dye flows through the catheter into the kidney artery.

X-ray images are taken as the dye moves through the blood vessels. Saline (sterile salt water) containing a blood thinner may also be sent through the catheter to keep blood in the area from clotting.

A computer may be used to "subtract" out the bones and tissues in the area so that only the blood vessels filled with the dye can be seen. This is called digital subtraction angiography (DSI).

The catheter is removed after the x-rays are taken. Pressure is immediately applied to the area for 10 to 15 minutes or more to stop the bleeding. After that time, the area is checked and a bandage is applied. You should keep your leg straight for 6 hours after the procedure.

How to Prepare for the Test

Tell the health care provider if:

  • You are pregnant
  • You have ever had any bleeding problems
  • You currently take blood thinners, including daily aspirin
  • You ever had any allergic reactions, especially those related to x-ray contrast material or iodine substances

You must sign a consent form. Do not eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the test. You will be given a hospital gown to wear and asked to remove all jewelry. You may be given a sedative or pain pill before the procedure.

How the Test Will Feel

The x-ray table is hard and cold. You may wish to ask for a blanket or pillow.

Some people feel a sting when the anesthetic (numbing medicine) is given. You will feel a brief, sharp pain as the catheter is inserted. There is a feeling of pressure as the catheter is moved into the body.

Some people feel a warm or burning sensation when the dye is injected. There may be slight tenderness and bruising at the site of the injection after the test.

Why the Test is Performed

The test is done to look at the blood vessels that feed the kidney. It may show:

  • Aneurysm (a widening of the vein or artery)
  • Blood clots
  • Kidney disease or failure
  • Renal stenosis (narrowing of the blood vessels of the kidneys)

Renal arteriography is often used to examine donors and recipients before a kidney transplant to determine the number of arteries and veins on each kidney.

Normal Results

Results may vary. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Renal angiography may show the presence of tumors, narrowing of the artery or aneurysms (widening of the vein or artery), blood clots, or bleeding in the kidney.

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:


The procedure is generally safe, but risks may include:

  • Allergic reaction to the dye (contrast medium)
  • Arterial occlusion from dissection
  • Damage to artery or artery wall, which can lead to blood clots

There is low radiation exposure. However, most experts feel that the risk related to most x-rays is smaller than other risks we take every day, such as driving in cars. Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks related to x-rays.


The test should NOT be done if you are pregnant or tend to bleed.

Magnetic resonance angiography can be done on those who cannot have a renal arteriography exam. MRA is noninvasive, and can provide similar imaging of the kidney arteries.

Alternative Names

Renal angiogram; Angiography - kidney

Update Date: 5/13/2012

Reviewed by: Benjamin Taragin MD, Department of Radiology, Montefiore Medical Center Bronx, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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