Coronary CTA (computerized tomography angiography) evaluates whether buildup of plaque (deposits of substances such as fat, cholesterol, and calcium) have caused narrowing of the patient’s coronary arteries (the arteries that provide blood supply to the heart itself). It uses X-rays, injected contrast material, and a computer to create highly detailed images of the coronary arteries.
Coronary CTA is a non-invasive alternative to coronary catheterization, an invasive, physical method of examining the coronary arteries. Coronary catheterization is prone to more complications and requires more recovery time.
With the capability of CT to simultaneously image bone, blood vessels, and soft tissue, this exam is also capable of helping doctors identify other sources of chest discomfort, such as an injured aorta or a blood clot in a lung, when the findings rule out coronary artery disease.
The contrast material, along with a medication to slow the heart rate so that the effects of blood moving through the arteries can be more easily observed, is administered via IV. The scanning process itself is painless, but you may experience some discomfort when the IV needle is first inserted and from staying very still during the exam. In rare cases patients may experience dizziness from the medications.