A Fluorescein Angiogram is a test which enables us to visualize the blood supply of your retina. The retina is like the film of the camera and converts the light that you see into electrical signals to the brain.
A special dye is injected through a small vein in your arm and is then photographed as it passes through the blood vessels of your retina.
What can I expect?
There is no special preparation required. It is more convenient if you wear clothing that will allow easy access to the front of your elbow. You can eat as normal prior to your appointment, and you do not need to vary your diet, especially if you are a diabetic. There is a small risk of nausea afterwards though, so just to be safe, you should not have a large meal just prior to the appointment.
When you arrive, please advise our staff if you have any allergies or other medical problems. The staff will dilate your pupils with special eye drops. These drops take 15-20 minutes to work before you can have the test. During this period you can relax in the waiting room.
You will then be taken into our camera room and asked to place your chin on a rest in front of a camera. You will then be asked to look at and follow a small blinking light while photographs are taken. The camera will be close to your eyes and the flash for each photograph will be bright, but it is quite harmless. Generally, about 5 to 15 photographs will be taken of your eyes.
A tiny needle, much smaller than a normal blood test needle, will be placed in a vein in your arm and the camera made ready to take more photographs. As the dye circulates, about 20 photographs will be taken during about a 2 minute period with a couple of final photographs 5 minutes later.
After your test the doctor will show you the pictures and explain your condition and any possible treatment options.
Can there be any side effects?
Fluorescein angiography is a very safe and very helpful test. Tens of thousands of fluorescein angiograms are performed every year in Australia and New Zealand and most patients do not experience any side-effects from their test. About one patient in twenty may feel a little nausea for 10 – 20 seconds as the dye circulates. The nausea is very rarely enough to cause vomiting. In most cases it will pass over you like a wave for a few seconds and then it is gone. If you take a deep breath and relax, knowing it will pass quickly it will usually settle rapidly. In all cases, the dye eventually comes out through the kidneys so you will pass bright orange/yellow urine during the next 24 hours or more.
Very rarely, patients develop a transient itchy rash which usually lasts for about an hour. If this occurs when you get home, an antihistamine drug will help. If you are concerned about this or have any other problem, call your GP and let us know about it. Severe allergic reactions are extremely rare but can be fatal (less than 1 in 200 000) so if you have a history of severe allergic reactions to dye, please let the doctor or nurse know.
You should avoid heavy use of the injected arm for a few hours afterwards. Your vision will be blurry from the flash for about 10 minutes and from the drops for several hours. It will clear progressively and will usually be back to normal by the following morning.