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Venography (Lower Limb Venography)

What is venography?

Venography is a procedure that makes X-ray pictures of the veins, often of the legs. Dye (contrast material) is injected. The contrast dye lets your health care provider to check the size and condition of the veins. 

Depending on the reason for the procedure, different areas may be looked at. For example, the procedure may involve one or both legs or arms or the vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the body to the heart.

Illustration of the circulation system of the legs
Click Image to Enlarge

Reasons for the procedure

Venography may be used to diagnose deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein of the leg, arm, or other area of the body. The procedure may also be done for the following reasons:

  • To find the cause of a blockage in a vein

  • To find the cause of pain and swelling of the leg or arm

  • To diagnose vein problems that are present at birth (congenital)

  • To find a vein to be used in bypass surgery

  • To find the source of a blood clot that traveled to the lungs (pulmonary embolism)

Illustration of deep vein thrombosis of the leg
Click Image to Enlarge

Risks of the procedure

The risks of venography include:

  • Damage to the vein

  • Infection

  • Allergic reaction or kidney damage from the dye

Before the procedure

Your health care provider will explain the procedure to you. Ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.

You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the test. Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.

Make sure you tell the health care team:

  • All medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter, herbs, and supplements

  • If you are pregnant or might be pregnant

  • Any medicine allergies, especially to latex, bandage tape, or anesthesia

  • If you have had reactions to dye (contrast media)

  • If you have a bleeding problem

Make sure you know if you have to stop eating or drinking before you have the procedure.

You may need to have someone drive you home afterward.

During the procedure

Venography may be done while you are a patient in the hospital or as an outpatient.

In general, the venography will include:

  1. A pen may be used to mark your pulses before the procedure. This will allow easier checking of the pulses after the procedure.

  2. You will lie on your back on the X-ray table.

  3. After cleansing the area, a needle will be put into 1 of your veins (intravenous, or IV).

  4. An injection of contrast dye will be given. You may feel warmth or a flushing sensation.

  5. X-rays will be taken as the dye travels through your leg, arm, or other area of your body.

  6. A band (tourniquet) may be placed on your leg or arm to control the speed of blood flow.

  7. The needle will be removed from the vein.

  8. To control bleeding, a pressure dressing will be placed over the area.

After the procedure

Following the procedure, your vital signs (heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure) will be closely watched. Your leg, arm, or other area and the intravenous site will also be checked. 

Your health care provider will tell you when you can return to your normal activities. 

Drink a lot of water and other healthy drinks to help flush the contrast dye.

Call your health care provider if you have the following:

  • Fever or chills

  • Increased pain, redness, swelling, or drainage from the intravenous site

  • Bleeding from the intravenous site