A CT angiogram, also called computed tomography angiogram, is a special type of X-ray test. X-rays are taken from different angles after dye is injected into a vein, and a computer puts the X-ray pictures together to create detailed views of the heart.
When is it used?
This scan may be done to:
Look for narrowing, weakness, or blockages in blood vessels.
See how well your heart is working.
Check the heart valves.
Look at structures around the heart, such as the pericardium (the thin membrane around the heart) and the aorta (the large blood vessel that carries blood to your body).
How do I prepare for this procedure?
Plan for your care and a ride home after the procedure.
You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Some medicines (like aspirin) may increase your risk of bleeding during or after the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food or medicine allergies. Tell your provider if you have had kidney problems or an allergy to chemicals, such as contrast dye. Contrast dye is used for some scans.
Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep you from vomiting during the procedure.
Follow your provider’s instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers may have more breathing problems during the procedure and heal more slowly. Itâ€™s best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery.
Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.
What happens during the procedure?
You will be given an injection of a contrast dye through an IV. The dye helps the blood vessels show up on the scan.
You will lie down on a moving table that will slide into the scanner. The CT scanner is a large machine with a tunnel in the center. Inside the scanner, many X-ray beams are passed very quickly through your body at different angles. You will need to stay still during the scan so that the pictures will not be blurry. Images of your blood vessels will be seen on a computer screen and prepared for your healthcare provider to examine later.
Because of the small, enclosed space, some people get anxious. If you start feeling panicky or are having other problems, the scan may be stopped. Your healthcare provider may give you medicine to help you relax before and during the scan.
What happens after the procedure?
Usually, you can go home soon after the test. If you were given medicine to help you relax, you will be watched carefully until you are fully awake and alert. This may take 15 minutes to 2 hours.
If you were given dye for the scan, drink lots of fluids after the scan to help your body get rid of the dye.
Ask your healthcare provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
What are the risks of this procedure?
Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this scan include:
The radiation you get from a CT scan may cause a small increase in your lifetime risk of developing cancer.
In rare cases you may have an allergic reaction to medicines used during the procedure.
If you are pregnant, there is a risk the X-rays will hurt the baby.
Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-06-10 Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Budoff MJ, Achenbach S, Blumenthal RS, et al. Assessment of coronary artery disease by cardiac computed tomography: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Committee on Cardiovascular Imaging and Intervention, Council on Cardiovascular Radiology and Intervention, and Committee on Cardiac Imaging, Council on Clinical Cardiology. Circulation 2006; 114:1761.
Mark DB, Berman DS, Budoff MJ, et al. ACCF/ACR/AHA/NASCI/SAIP/SCAI/SCCT 2010 expert consensus document on coronary computed tomographic angiography: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation Task Force on Expert Consensus Documents. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv 2010; 76:E1.