What is a Coronary Computed Tomography Angiogram (CCTA)?

Coronary Angiography
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A coronary computed tomography, known as CCTA or coronary CTA, is a minimally-invasive diagnostic procedure used to detect the buildup of plaque in coronary arteries. Plaque is composed of various substances that circulate in the blood, including calcium, cholesterol or fat. The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart. A buildup of plaque can reduce and, in some cases, block the flow of blood to the arteries.

A coronary CTA, often referred to as a multi-detector or multi-slice scanner, examines the blood vessels to determine and identify abnormalities.

Reasons for a Coronary CTA

It is recommended that patients who are at risk for coronary artery disease have a coronary CTA. The procedure will check for early signs of the disease in order to prevent permanent damage. The test is effective in detecting conditions in patients without symptoms and is helpful in identifying coronary disease in patients with abnormal symptoms.

Additional reasons for performing a coronary CTA include:

  • Possibility of an aneurysm
  • Abnormal anatomy of the coronary arteries
  • Inconclusive stress test results
  • Examine blood vessels for atherosclerosis
  • Identify damaged blood vessels
  • Detect blood clots that may have traveled
  • Evaluate tumors fed by blood vessels

A coronary CTA is also performed to detect conditions that may be the cause of symptoms, such as a collapsed lung.

A coronary CTA is helpful in the prevention of a heart attack or stroke and is often used to prepare a patient for a kidney transplant.

Preparing for the Coronary CTA Procedure

To prepare for the procedure, patients should wear loose, comfortable fitting clothing. A gown may be offered to wear during the procedure.

Metal objects that include jewelry, eyeglasses, or dentures should be removed or left at home. Hearing aids or dental work may need to be removed. Patients may be asked to remove any piercings.

Patients may be asked to take a beta-blocker medication the night before the procedure in order to lower their heart rate and enhance the quality of the examination.

On the day of the examination, patients will be asked to avoid diet pills and caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, energy drinks or soda. Patients will be asked to refrain from the use of Viagra or similar medication.

The Coronary CTA Procedure

The technician will place electrodes on the patient’s chest. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph monitor (ECG) and will display the heart’s electrical activity during the examination.

An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted into the patient’s arm. An iodine contrast dye is injected into a vein through the IV. The dye will provide clear, accurate images for review. Medication will be administered through the same intravenous to slow or stabilize the heart rate.

X-rays are then taken.

The patient may be asked to raise or lower their arms during the examination. This will help improve the quality of the images. The table the patient is lying on will move through the CT scanner to take several images. Patients may be asked to hold their breath during the scanning process.

The results of the scans are used to create 3-D images that are analyzed to identify coronary artery disease.

Benefits of a Coronary CTA

There are several benefits of the coronary CTA procedure. A coronary CTA is not invasive and does not require the insertion of a catheter. It is also time-and cost-effective with a low risk of side effects. A coronary CTA provides views of bone, soft tissue and blood vessels. It may be able to identify other reasons for a patient’s symptoms, including an injury to the aorta or a blood clot in the lungs. A coronary CTA can be performed on patients with implantable medical devices, unlike an MRI. After a coronary CTA no radiation remains in the patient’s body.

Risks of a Coronary CTA

A coronary CTA is a relatively risk-free procedure. The medication used to slow the heart rate may cause patients to become dizzy when they stand. Patients will be asked to sit up slowly before they can stand. The amount of radiation a patient is exposed to is very small. The contrast dye used during the procedure may cause damage to the kidneys. Patients with severe kidney disease or diabetes may not be able to undergo this examination. Patients who are pregnant or nursing need to notify their physicians before undergoing the procedure. Other risks of a coronary CTA may include an allergic reaction to the contrast dye.

Also Known As: CT angiogram, CCTA or coronary CTA

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