Cardiac CT Angiography
In This Page:
- Need to Know
- Nice to Know
- Why is This Exam Done?
- What Will Happen During the Exam?
- How Should I Prepare?
- What are the Benefits and Risks?
- Where Can I Get This Exam?
A CT scan, or CAT scan, is a common term for computerized tomography, a painless diagnostic imaging test that displays two and three dimensional images of internal structures of the body on a computer screen. CT scans can be taken of areas many of the body including the chest, abdomen and brain. The images come from the reflection of x rays off tissues of varying densities.
Cardiac computed tomography (CT) angiography, is an exam that uses x-rays to take clear, detailed pictures of the heart. This exam is used to look for problems in the heart.
Need to Know
Nice to Know
Why is This Exam Done?
Cardiac CTA is a common exam for detecting or diagnosing problems with your heart including:
- Calcium buildup in the walls of the coronary arteries. Calcium in the coronary arteries may be an early sign of coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease.
- Coronary Heart Disease. If contrast dye is used during Cardiac CTA, it helps highlight the coronary arteries on the x-ray images. This can show whether the coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked, which could cause a heart attack.
- Problems with heart function and heart valves.
- Blood clots in the lungs (Pulmonary Embolism)
- Problems in the pulmonary veins. The pulmonary veins carry blood from the lungs to the heart. Problems with these veins may lead to atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm.
- Pericardial disease. This is a disease that occurs in the pericardium, the sac around your heart.
What Will Happen During the Exam?
Before undergoing the procedure, you may be asked to change into a gown and remove metallic objects, such as jewelry and dentures, which may interfere with the image quality of the exam. You will be asked to fill out a brief medical history sheet.
Always inform the technologist doing the exam if you think you may be pregnant.
If your exam requires IV contrast, an intravenous line will be established prior to the exam. If you are more than 65 years old or if you have kidney disease, a simple blood test will have to be obtained first.
During your Cardiac CTA scan, an x-ray machine will move around your body in a circle. The machine will take a picture of each part of your heart.
A computer will assemble the pictures to make a three-dimensional (3D) picture of the whole heart. Sometimes a contrast dye is injected into one of your veins during the scan. The contrast dye travels through your blood vessels, which helps highlight them on the x-ray pictures.
The CT scan time itself is only a few minutes on our state-of-the-art scanners. You should allow 30 minutes for the entire procedure. The highly skilled technologist will bring you into the CT scan room where you will lie down on the comfortable, padded exam table. The technologist will leave the room, but you will be able to see him/her the entire time and they will be in communication with you through a speaker in the observation/control area.
The scanner will not make contact with your body. The scanner does make some noise but it is not loud. The exam table you are lying on may move slightly to make adjustments for a better view. It is important for you to lie very still, and you may be asked to briefly hold your breath as the pictures are taken.
How Should I Prepare?
What To Wear
Please dress in comfortable clothing. If you are wearing jewelry or anything else that might interfere with your exam, we will ask you to remove it.
Please take all the medications that have been prescribed to you by your doctor. Let our staff know what medications you have taken prior to your exam.
Food and Drink
You should not eat solid foods for two hours prior to your test. You may, however, drink plenty of clear fluids, such as water and broth. You may also drink black decaffeinated coffee or tea.
What Are the Benefits and Risks?
The benefits of Cardiac CTA:
- Cardiac CTA can help detect blot clots and heart disease or problems at an early stage so that you may get the most appropriate care and treatment.
Risks you should be aware of:
- Because x-rays are used during CT scanning, the body is exposed to radiation. As an ACR (American College of Radiology) accredited organization, our staff ensures minimal exposure. Radiation doses are very small, but they can potentially damage cells.
Patients that may be unsuited for a CT scan include patients who:
- Are pregnant
- Have an allergy to contrast dye;
- Have unstable vital signs; and
- Are claustrophobic