What is Coronary CTA?
Coronary CT Angiography (CCTA) is a noninvasive diagnostic imaging exam using high-resolution 3D CT or “Cat Scan” images of the moving heart, coronary arteries and large vessels (including the aorta, pulmonary arteries and veins). The test requires special preparation prior to the study to get the best possible images, including avoidance of caffeine and other medications that may increase the heart rate and degrade the image quality. A rapid IV injection of iodine-based contrast is administered during the scan to optimally display the vascular structures. In addition, medication may be administered to slow or stabilize the heart rate and improve image quality.
Please note this exam is not the same as a Coronary CT for Calcium Scoring, which is a screening test to determine if calcified plaque is present.
What is its primary use?
CCTA is used to determine the presence or absence of soft (fatty) or calcified plaque in the coronary arteries, the vessels that carry blood directly to the heart muscle itself. It can measure areas of narrowing or “stenosis” of the arteries and determine whether symptoms of chest pain may be caused by a coronary blockage, particularly in at-risk individuals (patients with a family history of cardiac events such as heart attack, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, smoking, and/or elevated cholesterol).
Information is acquired about the course of the arteries, the heart muscle, valves and chambers, as well as small portions of the lungs and thoracic spine. It may be possible to determine to heart’s pumping efficiency (ejection fraction) and presence an enlarged heart, abnormal valve or tumor.
The results can guide important lifestyle changes and help determine whether cardiology consultation or certain medical treatments are indicated to reduce your risk of future problems.
The on-table exam time is usually 10 minutes, but you may spend additional time before the test if medication is needed to slow your heart rate. Since it is noninvasive, a coronary CTA is performed much faster than a cardiac catheterization with reduced risk and discomfort to you, a lower radiation dose (in most cases), and a faster recovery time.
Preparing for CT
Click to download preparation instructions (PDF)