A CT (computerised tomography) coronary angiography is a type of scan that shows the structure of the heart and the arteries which supply blood to the heart. This reveals any narrowing or blockage of the arteries around the heart using X-rays to take pictures. These X-rays are then reconstructed by a computer into 3D images.

What is a CT coronary angiography scan?

A CT coronary angiography is a non-invasive examination, which is lower risk with a smaller chance of complications compared to a conventional angiogram.

A conventional angiogram requires a catheter to be inserted into the artery to study the area of the heart that requires examination. This may be recommended for patients with known coronary heart disease, as a procedure called coronary angioplasty can be performed at the same time as the scan. This is a minimally invasive procedure that can improve blood flow to your heart.

A CT coronary angiogram does not need a catheter; it instead uses a CT scanner to acquire images and an injection of contrast dye to study the heart vessels. This is less invasive than a standard angiogram and is recommended if your doctor is trying to establish whether you have coronary heart disease. However, it can be used to detect a variety of heart conditions.

A CT coronary angiography is the only non-invasive scan that can show the build-up of any plaque in the arteries of the heart and the narrowing caused by them, as well as providing information about how well the blood flows in the coronary artery. A CT scan can also show other structures of your heart in detail.

Preparing for a CT coronary angiography scan

You will normally be advised not to eat anything for about four hours before your scan. You will also be asked not to drink any caffeinated drinks 12 hours before the test as these can increase your heart rate, which will make it harder to get a clear picture of your heart.

Before the scan, we will ask you to remove clothing above your waist, as well as any jewellery and glasses. These items can otherwise interfere with the scanner. A hospital gown will be provided to ensure comfort during your scan.

We will place a cannula (small plastic tube) in a vein on your arm. We use this to inject a contrast dye into your bloodstream so that we can clearly see your heart and arteries. The contrast is injected during the scan.

We will also place electrodes (small sticky patches connected to leads) on your chest, which connect to a monitor. This monitor records your heart rhythm and its electrical activity during the scan.

What to expect at a CT coronary angiography scan

At the start of the scan, you will be required to lie on a bed which slides into a doughnut-shaped scanner. The bed slowly moves through the hole in the middle of the machine, scanning your heart as you pass through the ring.

During the scan, you will need to lie still so that the machine can take clear images of your heart, without blurring from any movement. Blurring can also occur if your heart beats too quickly, preventing us from getting a clear picture of your heart.

If your heart is beating too quickly, we may give you some medication called a beta blocker. This helps to regulate your heartbeat during the scan, allowing us to get accurate images of your heart. The beta blocker medication is usually given intravenously through the cannula. You may also be given a nitrate medication in the form of a spray below your tongue. This dilates the arteries of the heart so that they can be seen clearly.

You will also need to follow some breathing instructions during the scan that will help to produce good images of the blood vessels around your heart.

The scan typically takes 20-30 minutes to complete. You will also be required to stay for around 15 minutes to recover after the scan.

Once you leave the clinic or hospital, you are free to return to your usual daily activities.

Are there any side effects after a CT coronary angiography scan?
A CT coronary angiogram is very safe but in rare cases, some people may have a reaction to the contrast dye injected through the cannula.

Reactions can include side effects such as:

  • vomiting
  • hives
  • nausea

You may also experience small amounts of bruising and soreness around the cannula site, but this should heal within a couple of days.

The scan involves a small exposure to radiation, just like any X-ray procedure. Your doctor will only recommend the test if the benefits outweigh the risks.

Due to the exposure to radiation, a CT coronary angiogram is not recommended if you are pregnant as it may harm the unborn child.

How much does a CT coronary angiography scan cost?

Our CT coronary angiography scan prices start at £1,490. Please contact us for a quote based on the type of scan you require.

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