What is a cardiac computed tomography (CT)?

Computed tomography, more commonly known as a CT scan, is a noninvasive test that uses x-rays with the assistance of a computer to generate cross-sectional views of the body.

Modern CT scanners (multidetector CT or MDCT) use a heart-imaging test that uses CT technology with intravenous (IV) contrast (dye) to visualize your hearts structure, coronary circulation and great vessels (includes the aorta, pulmonary veins and arteries).

Why is a cardiac CT done?

This test is ordered by doctors when other tests, such as chest x-rays, electrocardiograms (ECG), echocardiograms or stress tests, don’t give them enough information about your heart to provide a diagnosis.

The results of this test can show your doctor the following:

  • Your heart’s structure and its ability to pump blood
  • Scarring of your heart muscle caused by a heart attack
  • Amount of plaque buildup and narrowing of your coronary arteries
  • Abnormalities in the large blood vessels leaving the heart
  • Your overall risk for a heart attack

What to expect during a cardiac CT scan

During the CT scan, you will lie on a table that will pass through a large circular device which will take pictures of your heart from several different angels. A nurse will insert an IV into a vein in your arm to administer contrast (dye) during your procedure You may feel a warm sensation in your body as the contrast (dye) is injected.

The radiology technician or nurse will record the images and provide them to your doctor who will interpret the findings to help provide diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Common conditions that could require a cardiac CT scan

A cardiac CT can help detect or evaluate the following diseases or issues:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Calcium buildup in the coronary arteries
  • Problems with the aorta
  • Problems with heart function and valves
  • Pericardial disease

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