Cardiac imaging provides pictures of your heart and cardiac vessels to see how your heart is performing. The noninvasive diagnostic tests – including X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds – help us diagnose various heart and vascular conditions. At Cardiovascular Medicine, we offer advanced imaging tests so we can successfully treat and manage all types of cardiovascular diseases.
When to See a Cardiovascular Specialist
If you are at risk for heart disease or have symptoms that concern you, our comprehensive testing can help identify any issues. Conditions that we diagnose with cardiac imaging include:
Our range of cardiac diagnostic tests can provide the information you need to make informed decisions about your healthcare. Deciding which test is right for you will depend on several factors, including your symptoms and individual circumstances. Our diagnostic testing options include:
We offer an array of procedures to treat and manage your cardiovascular condition so you can feel better. Working alongside you, we design a treatment plan that will allow you to feel better and return to doing the things you love. Our treatment options include:
CT Scan of the Coronary Arteries
What is a CT Scan of the Coronary Arteries?
Cardiac imaging tests can provide insight into your risk for future heart disease. A computerized tomography (CT) scan of the coronary arteries examines the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Though the procedure can detect many heart conditions, it is most often used to see if you have narrowed or blocked arteries in your heart, which can indicate coronary artery disease.
The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply the heart. When plaque — made up of fat, cholesterol, and calcium — deposits in the inner lining of the arteries, the blood vessels narrow. This build up can restrict or even block blood flow, putting patients at risk of a heart attack.
Using contrast dye in conjunction with an X-ray machine, a CT scan of the coronary arteries provides clear, detailed images of the heart and its blood vessels. It differs from a standard coronary angiogram, which involves more invasive maneuvers. It’s important to remember that not all heart conditions can be diagnosed with a CT scan of the coronary arteries, so it is not a foolproof method for diagnosing potential heart attacks.
What to Expect
To prepare for this cardiac imaging test, you will need to fast for 4 hours beforehand. You'll also need to avoid caffeine in the 12 hours prior to your scan, as caffeine can increase your heart rate and alter the quality of the images taken. When you arrive for the test, we ask that you remove any jewelry or other items that may contain metal. Please let us know if you have a metal implant.
First, we will insert an IV into your arm or hand, through which we will inject the contrast dye. We will also attach electrodes to your chest to record your heart rate. Next, you will lie down on a table that will slide into the CT scanner.During the procedure, we will ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds at a time, allowing us to capture clear images from several angles. The entire procedure, including set-up time, can take up to an hour, though the scan itself only lasts seconds to minutes.
Risks & Side Effects
CT scan of the coronary arteries uses X-ray, which means you will be exposed to radiation. While the exposure is minimal and generally safe for most people, those who have concerns should speak to their doctor. Women who are pregnant should avoid having a CT scan due to the risk to their unborn child.
We use contrast dye to get the clearest images of your blood vessels. If you have a known allergy to contrast dye, or if you think you may be allergic, let us know. In some cases, taking a steroid medication 12 hours before the procedure can lower your risk of a reaction.
Those with known kidney disease run a small risk of the contrast dye causing kidney damage. We will discuss your individual risk factors to decide what's right for you.
Am I a Candidate?
A CT scan of the coronary arteries can be a useful tool for those with a heightened risk of developing heart disease or for those who show symptoms of heart disease, which can include chest pain, tightness, or pressure, shortness of breath, or unexplained pain in the neck, jaw, arms, or legs. We may also recommend a CT scan of the coronary arteries for patients who have:
- Unclear lab and EKG results
- Ongoing, atypical chest pain
- New or worsening symptoms after a normal stress test result
- Unclear or inconclusive stress test results
- Low to medium risk for coronary artery disease with certain conditions
- Coronary artery bypass grafts