Coronary CT angiography imaging uses computed tomography (CT) to look at the blood vessels (coronary arteries) that provide blood to the heart muscle.
What Is Coronary CT Angiography (CCTA)?
Coronary CT angiography uses a special computer to take multiple pictures of the heart and blood vessels using X-rays, and constructs a 3D picture of the arteries which can show the whether any material such as plaque has built up to cause a blockage.
You may need a coronary CT angiogram if you have:
- Chest pain, and your physician would like to see if any blockages are present in your coronary arteries
- Congenital heart disease, and your physician would like to see if there are any abnormal vessels or connections in the region of the heart
How to Prepare for Your Coronary CT Angiogram
Once your doctor orders the test, several steps may occur.
- Your doctor may ask you to take certain medications, such as a beta-blocker, to slow down your heart rate to improve the quality of the images obtained.
- Your doctor may ask you to obtain blood work to check your kidney function prior to the test. The doctor’s office will also give additional instructions on medications to avoid or temporarily stop.
- On the day of the study, you will need to fast for a certain amount of time before the test. You will also receive an IV for administering the contrast.
- At the time of the study, you may receive medication to further slow down your heart rate, as well as a medication called nitroglycerin, which helps improve the quality of the images obtained.
What to Expect During a Coronary CT Angiogram
- A nurse or technologist will help you change into a hospital gown, and will apply sticky patches (called electrodes) to your chest, which are used to monitor your heart rhythm during the study.
- You will lie flat on your back on a table that moves into the CT machine. It is important to lie very still during the test.
- A technician will control the machine from the next room and will be able to see and hear you throughout the entire test.
- A nurse or technologist may inject contrast material into a vein to get a better picture of your heart, and you may experience a warm sensation all over your body.
- This test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes.
Coronary CT Angiography Results
Common results of a coronary CT include:
- Normal results typically mean that the arteries supplying blood to your heart muscle do not have significant blockage.
- Abnormal results can vary depending on your specific condition and may indicate that there is some blockage in a blood vessel, or that there is an abnormal connection between blood vessels.
Common Coronary CT Angiogram Side Effects and Risks
- The technologist uses a small amount of radiation to perform the study, but and the risk is low.
- There is a slight risk of an allergic reaction when the technologist injects contrast or of an infection developing at the injection site. In rare cases, contrast material can harm people with severe kidney or liver disease.
How Much Does a Coronary CT Angiogram Cost?
The cost of a coronary CTA varies depending on your insurance provider. Please call the physician’s office to verify insurance coverage and cost.