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Venogram

Test Overview

A venogram is an X-ray test that takes pictures of blood flow through the veins in a certain area of the body.

During a venogram, a special dye (contrast material) is put into your veins so they can be seen clearly on an X-ray picture. A venogram looks at the condition of your veins and the valves in your veins.

A venogram can show the veins in your legs, pelvis, or arm; the veins leading to the heart; or the veins leaving your kidneys. It can show normal blood flow and blood flow blocked by a blood clot (thrombus).

Why It Is Done

Venography might be done to:

  • Check the blood flow in veins.
  • Find the right placement in blood vessels for medical devices such as filters.

How To Prepare

You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the test. You might be allowed to drink clear liquids on the day of the test. Tell your doctor about all of the medicines, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. You may need to stop taking some medicines or supplements for a while before the test.

Before a venogram, tell your doctor if you:

  • Are or might be pregnant.
  • Are allergic to any medicines, contrast material, food, or iodine dye.
  • Have bleeding problems or take blood-thinning medicines, such as aspirin, heparin, or warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Have asthma.
  • Have had kidney problems.
  • Have diabetes, especially if you take metformin (Glucophage).

You will be asked to sign a consent form that says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information formmedical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

A venogram usually is done in a hospital X-ray department by a radiologist and an X-ray technologist. A nurse may also be present.

Before the test

Take off all jewelry and metal objects before the test. You will need to take off all or most of your clothes. You will be given a gown to use during the test. You may be asked to urinate just before the test begins.

You will lie on an X-ray table. A tilting X-ray table is usually used when studying the legs. Safety straps will help you lie still if the table is tilted.

During the test

For a leg venogram, you will be asked to relax the leg and keep it still during the X-rays. An elastic band will be put around your leg or ankle to make the veins of the foot fill with blood. The dye will be put in a vein (IV) on the top of your foot.

If the veins in your pelvis are studied, the dye may be placed in a vein in your groin. For an arm venogram, the dye will be put into a vein on the top of your hand or in your arm.

After the dye is put in, a series of X-rays is taken of each section of the arm or leg or pelvis. Your arm or leg may be placed in several different positions so that X-rays from different views can be taken. If your doctor is placing an intravenous (IV) line, X-rays will be taken as the line is put in to help guide it to the correct position.

After the X-rays are taken, your arm or leg will be raised. A sterile salt solution (saline) may be put into the vein to help flush out the dye. Heparin, a blood thinner, may be put into the vein to prevent a blood clot. A small bandage will be placed on the IV site.

This test usually takes 30 to 90 minutes.

After the test

Drink extra fluids after the test to help flush the dye out of your body.

How It Feels

You will feel a quick sting or pinch when the numbing medicine is given. When the dye is put into the vein, you may feel a warm flush or have a metallic taste in your mouth.

You may feel like your arm or leg is going to sleep during the test. This goes away after the test.

Risks

There is some risk of problems with a venogram.

  • There is a small risk of developing an allergic reaction to the dye.
  • There is a small risk of infection or damage to the veins being studied. In rare cases, a venogram can cause a deep vein thrombosis.
  • There is a risk of kidney problems if you take metformin (Glucophage) to control your diabetes.
  • There is always a slight chance of damage to cells or tissue from radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for this test. But the chance of damage from the X-rays is usually very low compared with the benefits of the test.

After the test

In rare cases, a venogram can cause an infection or a blood clot in the area studied. Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • A fever.
  • Increasing pain, redness, or swelling in the arm or leg studied.

Results

A venogram is an X-ray test that takes pictures of the blood flow through the veins in a certain area of the body.

Normal test results show that the dye moved quickly and evenly through the veins. Abnormal test results show that the flow of dye was slowed or blocked. This might mean that a blood clot, or another problem such as damage in the vein, is blocking or slowing blood flow.1

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Pregnancy. A venogram is not usually done during pregnancy because the radiation from the X-rays could harm the unborn baby (fetus).
  • The inability to stay still during the test.

Arm or leg venogram

  • Putting any weight on the leg being tested may stop the dye from moving through the leg veins properly.
  • Moving your arm or leg may affect how the dye moves.
  • In rare cases, foot veins are too small to put the dye into for the test.

What To Think About

Venograms are not done often. Other tests are used more commonly to check the health of veins. These include Doppler ultrasound, CT venography (CTV), and magnetic resonance venography.

References

Citations

  1. Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2013). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 6th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Howard Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
Last Revised June 14, 2013

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