What is Coronary CT Angiography used to diagnose?
Coronary Artery Disease is the single leading cause of death in the United States. Of the 1.2 million Americans who have heart attacks every year, approximately 150,000 of them die without showing any symptoms. With the advancement of CT scanners, this technology is being used to identify and diagnose diseases and conditions affecting the flow of blood in veins and arteries throughout the body in patients with and without symptoms. Typical vessels examined include those serving the brain and those bringing blood to the heart, lungs, kidneys, arms, and legs. Compared to traditional catheter angiography, CTA is much less invasive, more patient-friendly and in many cases presents a cost effective alternative that delivers better detail and more information.
What is Coronary CT Angiography?
Coronary CT Angiography is a minimally invasive diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a state- of –the-art CT scanner to provide high-speed x-ray images of literally hundreds of cross-sectional views of your body to yield detailed images of the blood flowing through the veins and arteries. When the CT scanner completes its programmed scan of the particular area that needs to be studied, a powerful computer takes the digitally stored data from the images and reconstructs them in 3D. This allows the radiologist to view your anatomy from any angle without having the image blocked by intervening structures. The images presented provide extremely accurate information for the radiologist to make a diagnosis so your cardiologist and or physician can treat you.
Is Coronary CT Angiography right for me?
Your physician or cardiologist determines if coronary CTA is appropriate for your condition. Generally speaking, if you have symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain indicating the possibility of coronary artery disease, you would be considered a candidate for the exam. Additionally, there are many people who do not outwardly show any symptoms however, they do have conditions which are associated with risk factors for the disease. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, are overweight, smoke or lead a sedentary lifestyle, any one of these factors or a combination of them would make you a candidate for the exam pending your physician’s approval.
Is Coronary CT Angiography Safe?
Not only is this technique invaluable for delineation of the body’s blood vessels, it is also relatively safe, convenient and much less invasive than traditional angiography where a sizable catheter is generally threaded through a vein or artery. In many cases, CT angiography may eliminate the need for surgery. The major risk associated with CT angiography is an allergic reaction to contrast materials used to improve the visualization of the veins and arteries.
How should I prepare for this procedure?
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure. Metal objects such as jewelry, eyeglasses, dentures and hairpins should not be worn since they could negatively affect the CT images. You may also be asked to remove hearing aids and dental work, such as bridges and dentures. You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the exam, especially if contrast material will be used. You should inform your technologist or physician of any medications you are taking and whether or not you have any allergies, especially to contrast materials. You should also tell your technologist or physician of any recent illnesses, if you are pregnant or have other medical conditions such as a history of heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and kidney disease or thyroid problems. Women who are breastfeeding may find it advisable to pump breast milk ahead of time so that it can be used until all the contrast material has been removed from your body.
What should I expect during this exam?
The procedure generally takes about an hour. Depending on the area to be examined, you will be positioned on the CT table on your back, side or stomach and straps and pillows may be used to help maintain the correct position and hold you still during the exam. A nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous line (IV) into your hand or arm and a small amount of contrast material may be injected to see how long it takes to reach the area to be examined. After this, the CT table with you on it will be moved quickly through the scanner to determine the correct starting position for the scan and a test image will be taken. The actual exam will begin after this and you will move slowly through the scanner. At all times a technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you. While the images are being recorded, you will hear an array of noises and an automatic injector connected to the IV will inject contrast material at a controlled rate. You may be asked to hold your breath during the scanning. When the exam is complete your IV will be removed.
While the scanning causes no pain, there may be discomfort from having to remain still for several minutes. For patients who find it difficult to remain still or who are claustrophobic or in chronic pain, a mild sedative prescribed by their physician may provide relief. If intravenous contrast material is used, you may experience a warm, flushed sensation and a metallic taste in your mouth that lasts for a few minutes. Minor reactions include itching and hives which can be relieved with medication. Light-headedness or difficulty breathing indicate a more severe allergic reaction and you should tell the technologist or nurse about it. After the exam, and depending upon whether or not contrast material was used, you can return to your normal activities.
For more information on this topic, please visit www.Radiologyinfo.org.