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  • Retinal Angiography

    Reviewed By Ninel Z Gregori, MD
    Published Aug. 10, 2023

    What is retinal angiography?

    Retinal angiography is when your ophthalmologist takes pictures of your retina and choroid. They can see these parts of your eye more closely with these pictures. This helps them find certain eye diseases, follow changes in your eye over time, and target treatment areas.

    What happens during retinal angiography?

    Retinal angiography is usually done in your ophthalmologist’s office. It often takes less than 30 minutes. Here is what will happen:

    • Your ophthalmologist or an assistant will put drops in your eyes to dilate (widen) your pupil.
    • A colored dye is injected in a vein, usually in your arm. It takes about 10 to 15 seconds for the dye to travel throughout your body. The dye eventually reaches the blood vessels in your eye.
    • To look at blood vessels in your retina, your ophthalmologist uses fluorescein, a yellowish dye. To look at your choroid, your ophthalmologist uses a dye called indocyanine green (ICG). This is because green is visible through the cells that cover the choroid.
    • As the dye passes through your retina and choroid, a special camera takes pictures. These pictures help your ophthalmologist find any problems or where to focus treatment.

    A woman having fluorescein angiography, where yellow dye in the retina lets doctors see problems of the blood vessels in the back of the eye

    A patient having fluorescein angiography.

    What to expect after retinal angiography

    You should have someone drive you home from the doctor’s office after retinal angiography. Your vision will be blurry for a couple of hours. This is from the eye drops used to dilate your pupils. Also, your eyes will be very sensitive to light. Bring sunglasses to your appointment.

    Retinal angiography risks and side effects

    • When you look at objects, they may seem dark or tinted. This side effect goes away in a few minutes.
    • Your skin may look a bit yellow. This happens because the dye travels to all your veins in your body. Your skin will return to its normal color in a few hours.
    • Your urine may look orange or dark yellow for up to 24 hours after angiography. This is because your kidneys will filter the dye from your blood.
    • You may feel a burn on your skin if dye leaks during the injection. This side effect goes away in a few minutes.
    • Although it is rare, you could have an allergic reaction to the dye. People who are allergic to the fluorescein dye may get hives or itchy skin. Very rarely, a person may have breathing or other serious problems. Your doctor can treat allergic reactions with pills or shots.

    People who are allergic to iodine may react to the ICG dye. Before your retinal angiography, tell your ophthalmologist if you are allergic to things with iodine in them. These include shellfish and the dyes used to take X-rays.