Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography
A coronary computed tomography (CT) angiography is a simple, non-invasive method of examining the coronary vessels that supply blood to your heart. This exam is quick and painless with very specific results. Plus, coronary CT angiography requires very little preparation and no recovery time compared to traditional angiography. Read this article to learn more about how coronary CT angiography compares to conventional angiography.
Coronary CT angiography can discover signs of early or significant heart disease that would be undetectable on other heart imaging tests. It detects both calcified, or hard, plaque and noncalcified, or soft, plaque. It is these soft plaque deposits, often invisible to standard imaging tools, that are more likely to break away and cause heart attacks or more significant health issues.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR MY EXAM?
After we receive your CCTA referral form, we will contact you to schedule your appointment, ask you some important questions, and provide medication and preparation instructions, such as:
- You will need to have had an electrocardiogram (ECG) within one year of your exam. If you haven't, your health care practitioner will need to order one prior to your appointment.
- You will need to have a blood test to determine your kidney function at least 24 hours prior to your appointment.
- No food or drink (except water) in the four hours before your exam.
- If you have diabetes, you can have dry toast and juice.
- Please remember to take one tablet (100 mg) of your Beta Blocker the night before your exam. You may be asked to take an additional Beta Blocker one hour before your exam.
- Take all regular medications (except diabetes medication) the morning of your exam with water.
- Avoid all caffeine products (e.g., coffee, tea, chocolate, Excedrin, decaf coffee, decaf tea) in the 24 hours before your test.
- Avoid strenuous exercise the morning of your test.
- Please refrain from taking erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra or Cialis in the 48 hours prior to the procedure.
- Please arrive one hour prior to your scheduled appointment time.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING MY EXAM?
- You may be asked to change into scrubs.
- A nurse will take your blood pressure and note your heart rate. If your heart rate is too high to obtain clear pictures of your coronary arteries, you will be given another Beta Blocker. It may take a few minutes for the Beta Blocker to lower your heart rate; during this time the nurse will start an intravenous (IV) line for the CT contrast solution and you will be able to relax in a quiet room.
- In the scanning room, one of our technologists will position you comfortably on the scanner table and attach heart-rate monitor leads to your chest to identify the precise moment for imaging – the fraction of a second between heartbeats.
- Your technologist will leave the room to begin your exam, but you will be in direct communication throughout your procedure.
- Your exam has four parts:
- Your technologist will take test images to ensure you are in the best position for the scan. We use an automatic injector that delivers contrast solution to your IV to coincide precisely with the scans.
- Your calcium score is taken as you are advanced into the scanner and the machine spins around your body. It measures the amount of calcium deposits surrounding your coronary arteries and provides information on your vessel locations.
- Prior to the test bolus scan, the nurse or your technologist will spray a little nitroglycerin under your tongue. This dilates the coronary arteries and helps produce clearer images. (You may experience a metallic taste and a warming sensation throughout your body, this is normal.) You will then be moved into the scanner where the machine will take another series of images as the contrast solution is added to your IV. These images will measure how long it takes for the solution to reach your heart vessels and gauge your exact cardiac output.
- The last step is the angiogram. You will be advanced into the machine for a final time and a large amount of contrast solution will be added to your IV as the scan begins.
- At different times throughout your exam, the technologist will ask you to hold your breath for approximately 10-15 seconds while we scan your coronary arteries.
After your scan, we will remove your IV and escort you to our waiting lounge for about 20 minutes to make sure you are feeling well and drinking plenty of fluids. A nurse will check your blood pressure and heart rate. Once these have returned to normal, you’ll be free to go.
WHEN WILL I GET MY RESULTS?
We do our best to have our radiologists interpret the information and forward the results to your doctor by the next business day.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
In Calgary, CT exams are provided at our Mayfair Place location as private pay exams and are not covered by Alberta Health Care. A coronary CT angiography includes a scan of the coronary arteries with contrast and is $1,350.
We offer a 10% Seniors discount (65+) that can be applied to the total CT exam.
Your health spending account or group medical insurance plan may cover the cost of a private CT that is prescribed by a qualified health care practitioner. You will need to check with your plan administrator for coverage details.