What is coronary CT angiography?
Coronary computerized tomography angiography (CCTA) is a heart scan or imaging test that helps diagnose plaque buildup and consequent narrowing of the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply the heart).
During a CCTA scan, you may receive an iodine-containing material (contrast) as an intravenous injection to ensure the best possible images of the coronary blood vessels.
It uses powerful X-rays and produces multiple cross-sectional images or pictures of the inside of the body which can be viewed on a computer monitor, printed on film or by a 3D printer or transferred to a CD or DVD.
The procedure is performed to diagnose many heart conditions. These include:
How is a coronary CT angiography done?
A coronary CT angiography (CCTA) is generally done in the doctor’s office or hospital. The procedure, on average, takes 15 minutes to one hour to complete. CCTA is quite similar to a normal CT scan, the difference being the CT scanner speed and the use of a heart monitor to determine the heart rate.
Before the test
- You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours.
- You must tell your doctor of any medications you are on or allergies you may have.
- You need to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or illnesses you may have.
- You may be asked to avoid diet pills, Viagra (or any similar medicines), and caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, or sodas for 12 to 24 hours before the test.
- The night before the procedure, you may be given medications (e.g., beta-blockers) to optimize the quality of the scan.
- You must tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Your doctor will perform your physical examination and explain the procedure in detail.
- You may be asked to shave your chest hair.
- You may be asked to give your written consent for the procedure.
During the test
- You may need to wear a hospital gown.
- Metal objects such as jewelry, dentures, hairpins, and eyeglasses should be removed.
- The CT scanner machine is typically a large, donut-shaped structure with a short tunnel in the center.
- You will lie on a narrow examination table that slides in and out of the short tunnel.
- The X-ray tube and electronic X-ray detectors rotate around you in a ring, called a gantry.
- A technologist operates the scanner and monitors your exam in a separate control room from where they can hear and talk to you via a speaker and a microphone.
- The technologist will clean small areas on your chest and place small, sticky discs (electrodes) attached to an electrocardiography monitor.
- They will insert an intravenous line in your arm to administer contrast material during the procedure.
- You may be given other medications like beta-blockers and nitroglycerine to improve visualization.
- You may be asked to raise your arms over your head during the exam to improve image quality.
- The examination table will move several times during the test.
- You may be asked many times to stay still and hold your breath for a few seconds during the scanning.
After the examination
- You will be asked to wait until the technologist verifies that the images are of good quality.
- Your intravenous line is removed.
- The radiologist interprets your results and issues a report.
Is CT coronary angiography better?
CT coronary angiography or CCTA is a better procedure as compared to other imaging studies for the heart blood vessels as it has many benefits:
- CCTA is not invasive (instruments are not introduced inside the body) and thus has fewer complications and faster recovery.
- The imaging provides a clear view of bones, soft tissues, and blood vessels at the same time.
- It provides very detailed images of many types of tissue.
- The examination is fast and simple.
- It is cost-effective.
- The imaging is less disturbed by patient movement, unlike magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Unlike MRI, CCTA can be performed if you have an implanted medical device of any kind.
- No radiation remains in the body after the CCTA examination.
- There are no immediate side effects.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Is a CT Coronary Angiography Done Related Articles
Congenital Heart DefectsCongenital heart defects are heart problems that are present at birth. Genetics may play a role in some heart defects. Symptoms can range from nonexistent to severe and life-threatening. Fatigue, rapid breathing, and decreased blood circulation are a few possible symptoms of congenital heart defects. Many cases do not require any treatment. Procedures using catheters and surgery may be used to repair severe heart defects.
Coronary angiogram is an angiogram (an X-ray image of blood vessels filled with contrast material) used to diagnose coronary artery disease responsible for heart attacks, strokes, angina, and other coronary artery diseases. Coronary angiogram assists the physician in diagnosing and recommending treatment for coronary artery disease.
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)Balloon angioplasty of the coronary artery and stents (percutaneous coronary intervention, PCI) is a nonsurgical procedure that relieves narrowing and obstruction of the arteries to the muscle of the heart. PCI can relieve chest pain (angina), minimize or stop a heart attack, or improve the prognosis of patients with unstable angina. The availability of stainless steel stents has expanded the spectrum of patients suitable for PCI.
Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG)Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is performed to relieve angina in individuals who have failed medical therapy and are not good candidates for angioplasty (PTCA). CABG surgery is ideal for individuals with multiple narrowings in multiple coronary artery branches. Mortality and complications increase with:
- older age,
- poor heart muscle function,
- disease obstructing the left main coronary artery,
- chronic kidney failure,
- and chronic lung disease.
Coronary Heart Disease Screening Tests (CAD)
Coronary heart disease or coronary heart disease (CAD) screening tests can be used to potentially prevent a heart attack or cardiac event in a person without heart disease symptoms, and can assist in diagnosing heart disease in individuals with heart disease symptoms. Examples of coronary heart disease tests include:
- electrocardiogram (ECC, EKG),
- exercise stress test,
- radionuclide stress test,
- stress echocardiography,
- pharmacologic stress test,
- CT coronary angiogram, and
- coronary angiogram.
CT Coronary AngiogramThe CT coronary angiogram procedure is a noninvasive test of the heart. The procedure uses an intravenous dye and CT scanning to image the coronary arteries. CT coronary angiogram is a major tool in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease.
Heart disease (coronary artery disease) occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to the heart. Heart disease can lead to heart attack. Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
Angina, shortness of breath, and sweating are just a few symptoms that may indicate a heart attack. Treatment of heart disease involves control of heart disease risk factors through lifestyle changes, medications, and/or stenting or bypass surgery. Heart disease can be prevented by controlling heart disease risk factors.
Cardiac Arrest: What You Should KnowCardiac arrest is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate medical care. Use this WebMD slideshow to know whether you are at risk for cardiac arrest and what you can do if it happens to a loved one.
Heart Disease in Women
Heart disease in women has somewhat different symptoms, risk factors, and treatment compared to heart disease in men. Many women and health professionals are not aware of the risk factors for heart disease in women and may delay diagnosis and treatment. Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, tobacco use, overweight/obesity, stress, alcohol consumption, and depression influence heart disease risk in women. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes also increase women's risk of heart disease. Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), stress-ECG, endothelial testing, ankle-brachial index (ABI), echocardiogram, nuclear imaging, electron beam CT, and lab tests to assess blood lipids and biomarkers of inflammation are used to diagnose heart disease. Early diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in women saves lives. Heart disease can be prevented and reversed with lifestyle changes.
CAD SlideshowWhat is heart disease (coronary artery disease)? Learn about the causes of heart disease. Symptoms of heart disease include chest pain and shortness of breath. Explore heart disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Heart Disease SlideshowHeart disease prevention includes controlling risk factors like diet, exercise, and stress. Heart disease symptoms in women may differ from men. Use a heart disease risk calculator to determine your heart attack risk.
Heart Disease QuizTake our Heart Disease Quiz to get answers and facts about high cholesterol, atherosclerosis prevention, and the causes, symptoms, treatments, testing, and procedures for medically broken hearts.
Heart SymptomsHeart attacks symptoms vary greatly for men and women, from anxiety and fatigue to nausea and sweating. Learn the warning signs of a heart attack and know the symptoms that may require an immediate trip to the hospital.
Smoking and Heart DiseaseSmoking increases the risk of heart disease in women and men. Nicotine in cigarettes decrease oxygen to the heart, increases blood pressure, blood clots, and damages coronary arteries. Learn how to quit smoking today, to prolong your life.
Stress and Heart DiseaseThe connection between stress and heart disease is not clear. Stress itself may be a risk factor, or high levels of stress may make risk factors for heart disease worse. The warning signs of stress can be physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral. Reducing stressors in an individuals life not only can lead to a more productive life, but may also decrease the risk for heart disease and causes of heart disease.