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Diagnosing Heart Disease With Cardiac Computed Tomography (CT)


Are These Tests Covered by Insurance?

In many cases, the calcium-score screening heart scan, coronary CTA, and total body CT scan are NOT covered by most insurance companies or Medicare. These tests are not typically covered because they are considered screening exams. Therefore, you will likely be responsible for paying for all costs associated with the exam and may be required to pay these fees at the time of the exam. Please check with your insurance provider to determine the services that are covered and ask your health care provider about the terms of payment.

How Should I Prepare for the CT Scan?

Please note it's important to inquire about the expertise and training of the doctors who will be performing and interpreting the results of these CT scans, as the number of adequately trained doctors is limited.

Your health care provider will provide specific instructions to prepare for the test. You may need to have an IV, blood work, or other lab tests before the CT scan, depending on the type of scan that is ordered.

Caffeine will interfere with the results of your test. Do not drink or eat caffeine products (soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate products, coffee, or tea) for 24 hours before the test. Lastly, since many over-the-counter medications contain caffeine (such as diet pills, No Doz, Excedrin, and Anacin), do not take any over-the-counter medication that contains caffeine for 24 hours before the test. Ask your physician, pharmacist or nurse if you have questions about other medications that may contain caffeine.

You may be required to only drink clear liquids after midnight the night before the test. Clear liquids include clear broth, plain gelatin, and ginger ale.

CT scanners use X-rays. For your safety, the amount of radiation exposure is kept to a minimum. But, because X-rays can harm a developing fetus, this procedure is not recommended if you are pregnant. Tell your technologist and your doctor if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Undergoing radiation therapy


What Can I Expect During the CT Scan?

During the CT Scan:

  • You will change into a hospital gown. The nurse may record your height, weight, and blood pressure.
  • You will lie on a special scanning table.
  • An IV may be inserted into a vein in your arm, depending on the type of test that is being performed.
  • During the scan, you will feel the table move inside a doughnut-shaped scanner. The high-speed CT scan captures multiple images, synchronized with your heartbeat.
  • A sophisticated computer program, guided by the cardiovascular radiologist, analyzes the images.

What Happens After the CT Scan?

You may continue all normal activities and eat as usual after a CT scan. 

Your results will be examined and reviewed by a team of cardiovascular specialists, including a cardiovascular imaging specialist from radiology or cardiology. The team will evaluate the test results, along with other risk factor measurements (risk factor evaluation, blood pressure, lipid analysis), to determine your risk for future coronary artery disease and will make recommendations regarding your lifestyle, medications, or additional cardiac testing.

You and your primary care doctor will receive the full report outlining your risk assessment and follow-up recommendations. Ask your doctor if you have any questions about the CT test.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on May 16, 2014
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