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Computed Tomography Angiogram (CT Angiogram)

A computed tomography angiogram (CT angiogram) is a test that uses X-rays to provide detailed pictures of the heart and the blood vessels that go to the heart, lung, brain, kidneys, head, neck, legs, and arms.

A CT angiogram can show whether a blood vessel is blocked, where the blockage is, and how big the blockage is. The test can also show whether there is a bulge (aneurysm) or a buildup of fatty material called plaque in a blood vessel.

During a CT angiogram, you lie on a table that passes through a doughnut-shaped opening in the scanner. A special dye (contrast material) is put in a vein (IV) in your arm or hand to make the blood vessels easier to see on the scan. If you are having a CT angiogram to look at your heart and the blood vessels that go to it (coronary arteries), you may be given a medicine called a beta-blocker to slow your heart rate during the test.

Why It Is Done

A CT angiogram is done to look for:

  • A narrowing (stenosis) or blockage in the coronary arteries. This can occur when there is a buildup of fat (cholesterol) and calcium in the arteries. This buildup is called plaque.
  • Heart problems, such as pericarditis (a buildup of fluid around the heart) and damage or injury to the heart valves.
  • A bulge (aneurysm) or tear (dissection) in the aorta camera.gif, which is a large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
  • A blood clot in the lungs (pulmonary embolism).
  • A narrowing of the veins in the leg (peripheral arterial disease).
  • An abnormal pattern of blood vessels that may be a sign of a tumor.

How To Prepare

Before you have a CT angiogram, tell your doctor if you:

  • Are or might be pregnant.
  • Are breast-feeding. You will need to use formula (not your breast milk) for 1 to 2 days after the CT angiogram until the dye has passed from your body. Or you can pump your breast milk and store it before the test and use that for a couple of days.
  • Are allergic to any medicines, including iodine dyes.
  • Have a heart condition, such as heart failure.
  • Have diabetes or take metformin (such as Glucophage) to control your diabetes.
  • Have a history of kidney problems.
  • Have asthma.
  • Have a history of thyroid problems.
  • Have had multiple myeloma.
  • Have had an X-ray test using barium contrast material (such as a barium enema) in the past 4 days. Barium shows up on X-ray films and makes it hard to see the picture clearly.
  • Become very nervous in small spaces. You will have to lie still inside the CT scanner, so you may need a medicine (sedative) to help you relax. If you are given a sedative, you may need to have someone take you home after the test.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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