Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA)

What is computed tomography angiography (CTA)?

A computerized tomography (CT) coronary angiogram is a noninvasive imaging test that looks at the arteries that supply blood to your heart. A CT coronary angiogram relies on a powerful X-ray machine to produce images of your heart and its blood vessels.

Why might I need computed tomography angiography?

A coronary CT angiogram can check your heart for various conditions, but it’s primarily just to check for narrowed or blocked arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease). CT angiography is used to find an aneurysm, blood vessels that have become narrowed by atherosclerosis, abnormal blood vessel formations inside your brain, blood vessels damaged by injury, blood clots that may have formed in your leg veins and traveled to your lungs, or evaluate if a tumor is fed by blood vessels. Information from CT angiography may help prevent a stroke or a heart attack.

What should I bring to my appointment?

  • Insurance cards
  • A current list of medications you are taking. Please include how much you take (dose in milligrams) and how often you take.

What are the risks for a computed tomography angiography?

The amount of radiation used during a CT angiography is considered minimal, so the risk for radiation exposure is low. No radiation remains in your body after the CT scan. Other risks could be an allergic reaction to contrast material. If you are breastfeeding, you will need to wait for 24 hours after this test before nursing your baby. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant you should notify your health care provider. There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss concerns with our health care provider or radiology technologist prior to the test.

How do I prepare for a CTA?

  • You may be asked to change into a patient gown, the gown will be provided for you. Please remove all piercings and leave all valuables at home.  
  • CT scans are most frequently done with and without contrast media. The contrast improves the ability to find structures that are abnormal. Please inform your health care provider if you have had an allergic reaction to contrast.
  • Usually you are asked to not eat or have caffeine for four hours prior to the test, you may have water.
  • Based on your medical condition, your doctor may request other preparation.

What happens during a CTA?

  • Prior to the test you may be given a beta blocker to slow your heart rate to slow your heart rate or nitroglycerin to dilate (widen) your coronary arteries.
  • An intravenous (IV) line will be placed in your hand or arm for the injection of contrast material and you will lie on a long table for the images.
  • The technician will place electrodes on your chest to record your heart rate.
  • Scanning is painless. You may hear clicking, whirring and buzzing sounds as the scanner rotates around you. You will need to remain still during imaging and may be asked to hold your breath during some of the images.

How long does the test take?

Depending on what body area is being scanned, the test may last for about 20 minutes or up to an hour.  

What happens after a CTA?

After the test is complete the IV will be removed. You may have a short wait while the technician ensures they have all of the needed images. In most cases, you can return to all of your normal activities. A credentialed physician will review your results and enter them into your electronic medical record. Your primary physician will then be notified of the results. The testing staff will be unable to provide you with your results.