CT Angiography

Your Care Explained > Tests and Procedures : CT Angiography

Because CT angiography (CTA) involves radiation exposure, it isn’t advised for pregnant women.

CTA is a noninvasive test that provides clear pictures of coronary arteries, including smaller ones. It is not used to screen healthy people for heart disease, but to rule out coronary artery disease in people with chest pain. A negative CTA test decreases the need for catheterization and other testing.

What to Expect:

  • No food or drink for a few hours before the test.
  • The injection may make you flush briefly.
  • You’ll be in the scanner for about 20 minutes.
  • A sedative will help if you don’t like confined spaces.
  • The technician will talk with you throughout the test.

Preparing for CTA

You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the test. Because a contrast material will be injected to illuminate your arteries during the exam, you should let your doctor know what medications you are taking and whether you have any allergies. You may be asked to stop taking drugs that may interact with the contrast material. If you have allergies, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.

Undergoing CTA

When you arrive at the imaging center, you will be given a hospital gown to wear and asked to remove all clothing and jewelry above the waist. You may also be given medication to slow your heart or to relieve anxiety, if you have claustrophobia or anxiety in enclosed spaces.

You will be helped to a padded table and a technician will attach electrocardiogram leads to your chest to monitor your heart during the scan. You may notice that the room is cool; the lower temperature is necessary for the scanner to function properly.

An attendant will insert a needle connected to a flexible tube, or IV line, into your arm and will inject the contrast material into it. You may feel a slight warmth or burning sensation as the contrast material is injected and may briefly experience a salty or metallic taste.

The technician will move to a nearby room to operate the computer that controls the CT scanner. She or he will be able to communicate with you through an intercom system.

The technician will remotely slide the table into the CT scanner so that the tube surrounds your body below the neck, leaving your head free. The machine will make clicking and whirring sounds as it takes images, and you may be asked to hold your breath for 10 to 20 seconds at a time to prevent movement in the image.

Once the technician is satisfied with the quality of the images, you will be slid out from the scanner and the IV removed from your arm. You may be monitored for a period of time for any side effects or reactions to the contrast material, such as itching, swelling, rash or difficulty breathing. You’ll be able to leave on your own and return to your normal activities after the scan is complete.

Waiting for Your Results

The results will be sent to the doctor who referred you. It may take a few days to receive them.

Learning Your Results

Your doctor will discuss the results with you and will advise you on further testing or follow-up care.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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