Key Points about Heart CT Scans (Cardiac Computed Tomography)

  • A heart CT scan – or cardiac computed tomography – is an imaging test used to take detailed images of your heart and blood vessels.
  • CT scans take place in an outpatient lab and are administered by a technologist.
  • You remain completely still while the CT scan captures multiple images of your heart.

Overview

Your cardiologist may recommend you undergo a heart CT scan to check for heart or blood vessel blockages, narrowing of the coronary arteries or other problems such as congenital (at birth) heart defects.

Candidates for a heart CT scan

Your cardiologist may recommend you undergo a heart CT scan to:

  • Check for problems with your aorta (the largest artery in the body that brings blood from your heart to the rest of your body) or pulmonary (lung) arteries 
  • Check if you have calcium buildup in your heart arteries
  • Determine if you have narrowing or blockage in the arteries that carry blood to your heart

Preparing for a heart CT scan

You will likely undergo a heart CT scan in an outpatient imaging lab. You should wear comfortable clothing, and you may be asked to put on a hospital gown for the scan.

Expectations during a heart CT scan

Your technologist will ask you to lie flat on your back on a scanning table. Your technologist will attach electrodes to your chest to monitor your heart activity. The scanning table will move into the CT machine.

Once you are in position inside the CT machine, X-ray beams will move around you to capture many images from various angles. You will need to stay completely still while these images are captured. Your technologist may ask you to hold your breath for short periods. The entire heart CT scan only takes about 10 minutes. When it is completed, the scanning table will move out of the CT machine and you can get off the table.

Recovery from a heart CT scan

Your technologist will remove the electrodes from your chest, and you will put back on your clothing if you have a gown on for the test. You can resume your normal activities immediately after the heart CT scan.

When to seek care

If you think you may need to undergo a heart CT scan, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist  for more specialized treatment. 

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