A CT angiogram procedure is also known as angiography. This procedure allows your physician to locate plaque build-up or narrowed arteries at an earlier stage, helping you to possibly avoid a heart attack. While traditional angiograms performed during a cardiac catheterization are considered the best way to address significant artery blockage, CT imaging offers a way to find plaque and fatty deposits without an invasive catheterization procedure. The test results can help you to make different lifestyle decisions, helping to avoid more serious heart issues in the future.

What to expect during a CT angiogram

Preparing for your procedure

Do not eat or drink anything for at least four hours prior to your CT angiogram, with no caffeine for 12 hours prior to the test. Check with your physician to determine if any of your medications should be avoided for the days leading up to your scheduled test. Make sure to bring all of your medications, as well as any herbal or dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications, to the test with you.

Make sure you tell your doctor if you are pregnant, think you could be pregnant or are breastfeeding.

During your procedure

Before your CT angiogram, a nurse will assess you. You will need to provide your medical history, allergies and cardiac risk factors at this time. In addition, your physician will have assessed your kidney function with blood work prior to, or on the same day of, your test.

The nurse will start an IV in your arm in order to administer the contrast dye into your vein; the dye will be injected both prior to and during scanning. You may feel flushed and warm from the dye, and it sometimes can produce a mildly sick-to-your-stomach sensation. You may also be given medicine to slow your heart rate prior to the test.

CT angiograms use an advanced scanner to obtain images. You’ll lie on an exam table that slides into a type of tunnel. A technician will give you instructions and record images from a separate room, and you’ll be able to talk to this person during the test. CT angiograms are not painful, but your technician will ask you to stay still and briefly hold your breath. During the scan, you will hear only slight buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds as the CT scanner revolves around you.

After your procedure

After this test, you can resume normal activities right away, although your physician may give you specific instructions based on your medical condition. This test could prevent the need for surgery.

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