Having a computed tomography coronary angiogram
This leaflet gives general information about a computed tomography coronary angiography (CTCA) scan. It does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified healthcare professional. Please ask us if you have any questions.
What is a CTCA scan?
A CT (Computed Tomography) scan is an examination that utilises X-rays that allow us to acquire detailed images of the body. A CTCA scan is a CT Coronary Angiogram, which uses CT to take pictures of your heart and coronary arteries showing any narrowing or blockage of the arteries around your heart.
What are the benefits of a CTCA scan?
A CTCA scan provides high resolution images of your heart, which helps us to make a diagnosis or assess the health of your heart. The information gathered then help determine the next step in your care. Although other tests provide information on how well your heart is functioning, as a non-invasive test, only a CTCA scan gives us complete information about the structure of your heart and integrity of the coronary arteries.
How should I prepare for the scan?
Make sure you inform us if you:
• Are an asthmatic
• Are a diabetic
• Have kidney/renal issues
• Males only: Have taken Viagra or Cialis in the last 5 days
12 hours before your appointment, you must not:
• Have any caffeine (coffee, tea, cola etc.)
• Perform any activities that will raise your heart rate (exercise, sexual intercourse etc.)
Please come well hydrated to your appointment.
How long will the scan take?
You will need to undergo some preparation prior to the scan. Whilst the examination itself will only take 15 minutes, you will need to remain in the department for an additional 15 minutes afterwards. In most instances, you can expect to be in the clinic for approximately one hour, but on rare occassions up to three hours - depending on your heart rate.
How is a CT coronary angiography scan carried out?
Your heart rate will be checked once you arrive and if it is faster than the ideal rate you may be given some medication to regulate it. This will ensure that the most accurate images are acquired. Commonly, this medication will be a beta-blocker tablet, such as Metroprolol. It is unlikely you will experience any side-effects from this medication. The medication can take up to an hour to take effect, but as soon as your heart rate is at an appropriate level we will be able to commence your scan.
The IV contrast (sometimes referred to as X-ray dye) is delivered via the veins in your arm. Our CT radiographer or clinic nurse will place an IV cannula into your arm to gain intravenous access.
Our CT radiographer will ask you to lie on a special bed. We will place electrodes on your chest so that the ECG can monitor your heart during the scan. We can then trigger the scanner to take a picture at a certain point during the heartbeat. This provides us with high-quality images of your heart where it is captured as still as possible.
Breathing can cause the image to blur, so to assist we will ask you to hold your breath for no more than 15 seconds at some point during the scan. Our CT radiographer will practice this with you.
A GTN spray or tablet may be administered under your tongue. This will open the arteries in the heart as much as possible which may result in a slight headache or dizziness. This is short-term and usually only lasts a couple of hours. It is important for you to inform the CT staff if you have any allergies or have taken Viagra or Cialis within the last 5 days.
You will be given the injection of contrast by the CT radiographer during the scan to highlight your heart and arteries. To ensure you experience no delayed ill effects you will be required to remain in the department for at least 15 minutes after the injection.