Arizona Cardiologists, Cardiology Clinics, Cardiology Doctors

Coronary CT Angiography (CCTA)Overview

Coronary CT Angiography (CCTA) is a diagnostic procedure using computed tomography to scan the coronary arteries. It is a non-invasive technique that allows clear visualization of narrowed and clogged arteries that can cause heart attack and stroke. Coronary CTA is not appropriate for everyone, and a consultation with our Cardiologists or a referral from your physician is required for the scan.

Computed tomography is an excellent diagnostic tool. In a CT scan, the X-ray beam moves in a circle around your body. This allows many different views and provides much greater detail than a standard X-ray. The X-ray information is sent to a computer that displays it in two-dimensional form on a screen.

Reasons for the Procedure
Coronary CTA is a non-invasive and cost effective alternative to traditional diagnostic angiography that offers more detailed images of heart function, resulting in faster, more accurate diagnosis. It helps stratify cardiac risk in patients with low to intermediate likelihood of coronary artery disease. For some patients with chest pain, Coronary CTA can rule out the need for cardiac catheterization.

Coronary CTA is useful in evaluating select patients with chest pain and shortness of breath. Generally, it is appropriate for patients with Framingham scores between 10 and 20 and two or more of the following factors:

  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking (past or present)
  • Peripheral vascular disease, including abdominal aortic aneurysm and carotid arteriosclerosis
  • Family history of heart disease.

CORONARY CTA is not suitable for patients with:

  • Reactive airway disease or asthma and heart rate of more than 75 beats per minute (BPM)
  • Body weight of more than 250 lbs
  • Beta blocker intolerance
  • Intra-cardiac devices such as a pacemaker or defibrillator.

Risks of the procedure:
There is a minimal risk from radiation exposure and a small risk of reaction to the contrast medication. The contrast agent used can adversely affect kidney function in a small number of patients.

What to Expect

Preparation Before the Procedure

Do not smoke for 24 hours prior to your scan.

Do not have any caffeine, or other foods or medications (e.g., chocolate, cola, coffee, tea, Excedrin or other stimulant medications) that will increase your heart rate, for 12 hours prior to your scan.

Continue taking medications as prescribed by your physician, unless otherwise instructed.

Please bring a current list of your medications and dosages with you to the appointment.

Prior to CTA examination, patients will be asked to complete an assessment (survey) and be added to a database for quality assurance.

Wear comfortable, loose-fitting, metal-free clothing. As electrodes will be placed on your chest for monitoring, it is best to wear a shirt that opens in the front or is easily removed.

You may be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry or other objects that may interfere with the scan.

You may be asked to remove eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures and other removable dental pieces.

Inform your doctor if you think there is a possibility that you are pregnant or if you are nursing.

If you have diabetes or kidney disease and/or are taking glucose-lowering medication, talk to your doctor about stopping the medication and proper scheduling of the scan if necessary.

Where is it done?
SimonMed,  Cottonwood AZ.

How is it done?
You will be asked to change into a hospital gown. A skilled healthcare provider will start an IV in your arm, as well as attach cardiac monitoring leads to your chest. You may be given medication either orally or intravenously to help lower your heart rate for this exam.

You will lie on a scan table that slides slowly into a large circular opening in the scanning machine that looks like the hole in a doughnut. The CT staff will be in the control area, adjacent to the CT room. You will be in sight of staff through a window. Speakers inside the scanner will allow staff to talk with you and hear you. The technologist will be watching you at all times and be in constant communication.

The CT staff will take preliminary scans to help define the area to be imaged. During this time, you will be asked to hold your breath. Once the plan has been established, you will receive an injection of contrast media to “highlight” the coronary arteries. As the contrast is injected, it may feel warm or give your mouth a metallic taste. This is a normal occurrence and will pass quickly.

The scanner will make a whirring sound as it begins to rotate around you. Low-dosage X-rays are absorbed by the body’s tissues, detected by the scanner and transmitted to the computer, which transforms the information into an image to be interpreted by the radiologist and cardiologist.

It is important that you remain very still during the procedure. The technologist will ask you to hold your breath for a short time during the scan. You may be asked to wait a short time while the images are reviewed to determine if more are needed.

Please be on time and allow at least one hour for your appointment.

Who interprets the results and how will I get them?
A radiologist and cardiologist will review and interpret the results of your test and share them with you and your physician. Your doctor should discuss the results with you.

After the procedure
You may resume your normal diet and activities immediately following your procedure. Drink a couple of extra glasses of water to help flush the IV contrast from your system. This generally takes 24 hours.