Digital Subtraction Angiography (DSA)

What is digital subtraction angiography (DSA)?

Digital subtraction angiography (DSA) is a diagnostic procedure to view the inner surface of blood vessels (also known as lumen). It can be used to view arteries, veins and heart chambers.

DSA is a fluoroscopic technique (a technique that captures continuous images) that uses complex, computerised X-ray machines. A special contrast medium or 'dye' is injected into your blood to make the blood vessels easier to see.

Images are taken before and after the contrast dye is injected. To highlight the blood vessels, software is used to digitally 'subtract' the first image from the second.

Why do you need digital subtraction angiography (DSA)?

DSA is used to diagnose:

  • Abnormal connections between arteries and veins
  • Blood vessel diseases, including obstructive vascular diseases that are caused by blocks or narrowing in the lumen (inside) of arteries and veins
  • Brain aneurysms (especially intracranial aneurysms)
  • Bleeding vessels

It may also be used to:

  • Assess the blood vessel systems of cancerous tumours.
  • Provide a visual guide for interventional procedures such as angioplasty (ballooning) and vessel stenting.

Who should not undergo digital subtraction angiography (DSA)?

This procedure may not be suitable if you:

  • Have poor kidney functions
  • Are hypersensitive to the iodinated contrast medium

What are the risks and complications of digital subtraction angiography (DSA)?

DSA is a relatively safe procedure. Complications are rare and may include:

  • Allergy to the contrast medium
  • Bleeding from the puncture site
  • Harmful effects of the contrast medium on other organs (e.g. kidney)
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