Diagnosing Heart Disease Through Cardiac CT Scans | Revere Health

Physicians may recommend a computerized tomography (CT) scan to help visualize different structures in the body through the use of X-rays. A cardiac CT scan uses CT technology to examine the heart’s anatomy, coronary circulation and great vessels (aorta, pulmonary veins, and arteries).

A Cardiac CT scan can help your doctor detect various conditions of the heart including heart disease, blood clots, tumors, defects and others.

Types of Cardiac CT Scans

There are two kinds of CT scans that can be used to help diagnose heart disease:

  • Calcium-score screening heart scan: This is a test that detects calcium deposits found in atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries. This is one of the best ways to detect early coronary calcification before hardening of the arteries becomes a concern—the amount of coronary calcium a patient has is a powerful indicator of future heart problems, and it can be a signal that it’s time to make lifestyle changes. If calcium is present in the arteries, the computer will generate a “score” that estimates the extent of artery disease. A negative scan means no plaque was found, but this does not exclude the chances of a future cardiac event. This procedure takes just a few minutes to perform and requires no intravenous contrast dye.
  • Coronary CT Angiography (CTA): This is a noninvasive heart imaging test that creates high-resolution, 3D pictures of the moving heart and great vessels. It is used to determine if fatty or calcium deposits are built up in arteries. This test involves an iodine-containing contrast dye that’s injected, and you may also be given a medication that slows or stabilizes your heart rate to improve imaging results. This test takes about 10 minutes and is considered the “gold standard” for detecting coronary artery stenosis, a narrowing of arteries that can create significant health problems. It can also help determine if chest pain is caused by a coronary blockage, particularly in high-risk individuals.

The Future of Heart Disease Detection

PET scans, or positron emission tomography scans, may soon be combined with CTA scanning to detect heart disease. PET scans use small doses of radioactive material to help provide information about different functions of the body such as blood flow or glucose metabolism in the heart, while CTA scans show heart shape and volume. More research is needed on PET/CTA tests for heart diagnosis, as there remains debate among cardiologists.

Preparing for Your Cardiac CT Scan

Prior to your cardiac CT scan, make sure you:

Follow all instructions provided for preparation, which may include an IV, blood work or other lab tests in advance.

  • Do not drink or eat products containing caffeine for 24 hours before the test.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter medications that contain caffeine for 24 hours before the test. Ask your physician or pharmacist if medications you take may contain caffeine.
  • Drink only clear liquids after midnight the night before the test—if recommended by your doctor.
  • Tell your technologist in advance if you are pregnant or undergoing radiation therapy.

During and After Your CT Scan

  • The steps of the cardiac CT scan will go as follows:
  • You’ll change into a hospital gown, and your height, weight and blood pressure may be recorded.You’ll lie on a special scanning table.
  • An IV might be inserted into your arm, depending on the type of test you receive.
  • The scan will begin, during which you’ll feel the table move inside a doughnut-shaped scanner. The scan will capture images synchronized with your heartbeat.
  • A computer program will analyze the images, guided by a radiologist.

After the scan, you can continue all normal activities and diet right away. Your results will be examined by a team of specialists, who will evaluate the results and determine your risk of coronary artery disease.  They may make recommendations for alterations of lifestyle or medications, or for additional testing.

Revere Health Imaging offers the most advanced imaging technology in Utah Valley with convenient locations and reduced-cost exams. We even offer our imaging services at night for your convenience. Contact us today at 801-812-4624 for an appointment!

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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