CT coronary angiogram

If you are having chest pain or other symptoms, your doctor may recommend a computerised tomography (CT) coronary angiogram, which aims powerful X-rays at your chest to produce detailed images of your heart and its blood vessels.

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Mayo Clinic Healthcare uses CT coronary angiogram to check for narrowed or blocked arteries and diagnose various heart conditions, such as:

How is a CT coronary angiogram performed? Are you sedated?

CT coronary angiogram is noninvasive and doesn't require sedation or recovery time. Before or during the procedure, you may be prescribed:

  • A beta blocker, which is a medication that slows the heart rate. Slowing the heart helps produce clearer images.
  • Nitroglycerin, which helps dilate coronary arteries.
  • Contrast, which is a dye that shows vessels more clearly on the images and is administered through an IV.

During the procedure, a nurse will insert an IV line into your arm and place electrodes on your chest to record your heart rate. You will then lie on a table that slides through the CT scanner, which resembles a short tunnel. You will be asked to stay still and hold your breath for a short period of time as motion can blur the image. A CT coronary angiogram is generally safe, though it does expose you to radiation. Mayo Clinic Healthcare uses the newest CT technology available, which reduces the amount of radiation as much as possible. There's also potential for a reaction to the medications or contrast. Before and after the procedure, you will be monitored for possible reaction for a period of time.

How long does a CT coronary angiogram take?

The scanning itself can last as little as five seconds. However, the whole procedure may take about 30 minutes. You will generally need to start preparing 12 hours before the scans by avoiding caffeine. About four hours before, you'll need to stop eating, though you can drink water.

Depending on your needs, you may need to temporarily stop taking certain medications.

After the procedure, you'll be able to drive and can return to normal daily activities immediately.