Cardiac Computed Tomography (cardiac CTA) is a non-invasive and painless test that allows high-resolution, three-dimensional visualization of the heart, coronary arteries, and other structures with the chest.
During this test, a small amount of contrast material is injected through a vein in the arm. The CT scanner takes high-resolution images of the heart and blood vessels as the contrast pumps through the heart. The technologists and physicians can then create two and three-dimensional imaging of the heart chambers, coronary arteries, and pulmonary veins.
Cardiac CTA is very helpful in the evaluation of patients with atypical chest pain. It can be used to detect blockages in the coronary arteries, or rule out abnormal coronary artery anatomy that could be congenital. Cardiac CTA has the advantages of being faster, non-invasive, and lower risk than a cardiac catheterization, especially for those patients who have a low to moderate chance of having blockages in the arteries. It also has the ability to detect early signs of coronary artery disease that cannot be seen by nuclear stress tests or through heart catheterization. Cardiac CTA can also be used to evaluate the pulmonary veins in patients undergoing certain procedures to treat atrial fibrillation.
Patients will have an IV placed in the forearm for this procedure and are placed on a heart monitor for the scan. Patients can be given medications through the IV to slow the heart rate down to 50-60 beats per minute. This allows all the heart structures to be image more clearly. Images will be taken to plan the scan, and then contrast material is injected rapidly into the arm as the pictures are taken. The actual imaging only takes a few minutes. Patients need no sedation and can drive themselves home after the procedure.