Electron Beam Computerized Tomography (cont.)
How Should I Prepare for a Heart CT Scan?
You may continue to take any medications but should avoid caffeine and smoking for four hours before the test. CT scanners use X-rays. For your safety, the amount of radiation exposure is kept to a minimum. But, because X-rays can harm a developing fetus, this procedure is not recommended if you are pregnant. Tell your technologist and your doctor if you are:
What Can I Expect During a Heart CT Scan?
During the CT scan of your heart:
- You will change into a hospital gown. The nurse will record your height, weight, and blood pressure. He or she may draw your blood for a lipid analysis.
- You will lie on a special scanning table.
- The technologist will clean three small areas of your chest and place small, sticky electrode patches on these areas. Men may expect to have their chest partially shaved to help the electrodes stick. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph (ECG) monitor, which charts your heart's electrical activity during the test.
- You may also be given an injection of a contrast material to help the CT scanner directly visualize your coronary arteries.
- During the scan, you will feel the table move inside a donut-shaped scanner. The high-speed CT scan captures multiple images, synchronized with your heartbeat.
- A sophisticated computer program, guided by the cardiovascular radiologist, analyzes the images for presence of calcification within the coronary arteries. Absence of calcium is considered a "negative" exam. But, it does not exclude the presence of "soft" noncalcified plaque. If calcium is present, the computer will create a calcium "score" that estimates the extent of coronary artery disease.
- The calcium-score screening heart scan takes only a few minutes.
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