Coronary CT Angiograms

About the test

A computerized tomography (CT) coronary angiogram is an imaging test to look at the arteries that supply your heart muscle with blood. Unlike a traditional coronary angiogram, CT angiograms don’t use a catheter threaded through your blood vessels to your heart. Instead, a coronary CT angiogram relies on a powerful X-ray machine to produce images of your heart and heart vessels. CT angiograms have a shorter recovery time than a traditional angiogram. Coronary CT angiograms are becoming a common option for people with a variety of heart conditions.

How the test is performed

CT angiograms are usually performed in the Medical Imaging Department of Platte Valley Medical Center. Just before your scan, you'll remove clothing above your waist, as well as any jewelry, and will change into a hospital gown.

Because your heart is constantly in motion while it beats, the nurse may give you a medication, called a beta blocker, to slow your heart rate. This will allow the doctor to see your heart more clearly. A technician will insert an intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm to inject a dye that will make your heart’s arteries visible on the images taken by the CT scanner. Although the actual scanning portion of the test takes less than 15 seconds, it may take up to an hour for the beta blocker to slow your heart rate sufficiently before the CT angiogram begins.

The technician will place some electrodes on your chest to record your heart rate throughout the exam. When you’re ready to be scanned, you will lie on a long table that slides through a short, doughnut-like machine. During the test, an X-ray tube will move rapidly around your chest to take images of your heart from many different angles. You will not see the tube moving. A technician will operate the machine from a room that is separated from your exam room by a glass window. There will be an intercom system the technician will use to talk to you.

It is important to stay as still as possible and hold your breath during the scanning portion of the exam. Any movement can blur the X-ray images.

After your CT angiogram is completed, you can return to your normal daily activities and should be able to drive.

How to prepare for the test

Platte Valley Medical Center will give you instructions about how to prepare for your CT angiogram. Usually, you will be asked not to eat anything for four to eight hours before your test. You can drink water, but avoid caffeinated drinks before your test, because they can speed up your heart rate. This can make it difficult for the technician to get clear pictures of your heart.

You can drive yourself to the appointment, and you’ll be able to drive home or to work after your test.