Introduction: Cerebral angiography is an invasive procedure associated with a small, but definite risk of neurological morbidity. In this study we sought to establish the nature and rate of complications at our institution among a large prospective cohort of consecutive patients. Also, the data were analysed in an attempt to identify risk factors for complications associated with catheter angiography.
Methods: Data were prospectively collected for a consecutive cohort of patients undergoing diagnostic cerebral angiography between January 2001 and May 2006. A total of 2,924 diagnostic cerebral angiography procedures were performed during this period. The following data were recorded for each procedure: date of procedure, patient age and sex, clinical indication, referring specialty, referral status (routine/emergency), operator, angiographic findings, and the nature of any clinical complication or asymptomatic adverse event (arterial dissection).
Results: Clinical complications occurred in 23 (0.79%) of the angiographic procedures: 12 (0.41%) significant puncture-site haematomas, 10 (0.34%) transient neurological events, and 1 nonfatal reaction to contrast agent. There were no permanent neurological complications. Asymptomatic technical complications occurred in 13 (0.44%) of the angiographic procedures: 3 groin dissections and 10 dissections of the cervical vessels. No patient with a neck dissection suffered an immediate or delayed stroke. Emergency procedures (P = 0.0004) and angiography procedures performed for intracerebral haemorrhage (P = 0.02) and subarachnoid haemorrhage (P = 0.04) were associated with an increased risk of complications.
Conclusion: Neurological complications following cerebral angiography are rare (0.34%), but must be minimized by careful case selection and the prudent use of alternative noninvasive angiographic techniques, particularly in the acute setting. The low complication rate in this series was largely due to the favourable case mix.