Cardiac CT- Cardiology

Doctors: Physicians, radiologists, technicians

What is cardiac CT?

Cardiac computed tomography (CT) is a heart-imaging test which uses CT technology with or without intravenous (IV) contrast (dye) to visualize the anatomy of heart, coronary circulation, and blood vessels such as the aorta, pulmonary veins, and arteries.

Several types of cardiac CT scans are used such as:

  • Calcium-score screening heart scan
  • Coronary CT angiography (CTA)
  • Total body CT scan

The procedure:

Whether the IV dye is used or not, the basic process of the test remains the same. During the procedure, the patient is asked to lie still on the CT table that will slide into the scanner. During the scan, patient’s heart rate is monitored by an electrocardiogram (EKG). Patient will hear some types of noises from machine such as soft buzzing, clicking, or whirring sounds when the scanner is taking images. Patient would be able to communicate with the doctor or technician while he or she is inside the scanner. Patient may be asked to hold the breath for few seconds during the procedure.

  • Calcium-Score Screening Heart Scan: This type of scan is used to detect calcium deposits in atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries. If calcium is present, the computer creates a calcium "score" which helps to estimate the extent of coronary artery disease depending on the number as well as density of calcified coronary plaques in the coronary arteries. This scan does not require any IV dye.
  • Coronary CT Angiography (CTA): Right before this test, a contrast dye (generally iodine) is injected into a vein of patient’s arm. This contrast dye basically highlights the blood vessels and helps to gain clear images. Patient may feel some discomfort due to needle along with a temporary metallic taste in the mouth. Patient may be also given medications to lower the heart rate to improve the quality of images. Next,
  • Total Body CT Scan (TBCT): This scan analyzes three major areas of the body: the lungs, the heart, and the abdomen/pelvis.



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About the Author:

Dr. Anand Lakhkar is a physician scientist from India. He completed his basic medical education from India and his postgraduate training in pharmacology from the United States. He has a MS degree in pharmacology from New York Medical College, a MS degree in Cancer/Neuro Pharmacology from Georgetown University and a PhD in Pharmacology from New York Medical College where he was the recipient of the Graduate Faculty Council Award for academic and research excellence.  His research area of expertise is in pulmonary hypertension, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular pharmacology.  He has multiple publications in international peer-reviewed journals and has presented his research at at prestigious conferences.