An ultrafast CT scan, also called computed tomography or CAT scan, is a special type of X-ray test for the heart. X-rays are taken from different angles and a computer puts the X-ray pictures together to create detailed views of the blood vessels that bring blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. It is called ultra-fast because hundreds of pictures can be taken during each heartbeat.
When is it used?
This scan is done to check for calcium buildup in the blood vessels that bring blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. These arteries are called the coronary arteries. Ultrafast CT can show how much the arteries may be narrowed or hardened by calcium. Normal coronary arteries have very little or no calcium in them. This scan may predict a heart attack in someone who appears healthy. It is recommended for people who have risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, being overweight, high blood fat levels, or a family history of heart disease.
How do I prepare for this procedure?
Usually no preparation is needed for this test.
What happens during the procedure?
Scanning usually lasts 20 minutes or less. 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 body will be seen on a computer screen and prepared for your healthcare provider to examine later.
What happens after the procedure?
Usually, you can go home soon after the test.
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?
Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure and any risks. Some possible risks include:
CT scans expose the body to more radiation than a regular X-ray. The amount of radiation depends on the size of the area being scanned. Exposure to radiation can be dangerous if you are exposed to it often or in large amounts. If you have a medical problem that requires repeated CT scans, you should ask your healthcare provider about how much radiation you are being exposed to and whether you can decrease the number of CT scans you need.
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.