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CT Angiography
 
Basic Facts
Computed tomography angiography (CTA) uses CT to specifically visualize blood vessels to diagnose problems such as narrowing, enlargement or other vessel abnormality.
CTA is less invasive than conventional angiography and takes less time than a conventional CT scan by using spiral CT scanning.
CTA creates a series of still images that are then reconstructed or joined together to produce a 3D likeness of the area being examined.
Computed tomography angiography (CTA) combines computerized tomography (CT) scanning and angiography to help physicians diagnose problems such as narrowing in the arteries. CT scanning, sometimes referred to as CAT scanning, uses x rays and computers to create detailed images of the internal structures of the body. These images, known as CT scans, show cross-sections, or slices, of the body. CTA is painless and uses a newer form of CT scanning called spiral scans, which is faster than conventional CT scanning, and produces a 3-dimensional (3D) likeness of the area being examined.

CTA can help diagnose or locate:
  • Aneurysm;
  • Ateriovenous malformation;
  • Brain tumor; or
  • Stroke.
The physician may also use CTA to help plan a surgical procedure.

PRE-TEST GUIDELINES

Patients are instructed to avoid food and liquids 4 to 6 hours before the test and to remove any jewelry and other metal objects, such as hair clips, which interfere with imaging equipment.

RISK FACTORS

Contrast material carries a slight risk of causing an allergic reaction. Patients who know that they have an allergy to contrast material or dye should tell the physician before the contrast material is administered.

Patients who may be unsuited for CTA include those who:
  • Are pregnant;
  • Have an allergy to contrast dye;
  • Have unstable vital signs; and
  • Have significant problems with kidney function.
WHAT TO EXPECT

The patient lies still on the scan table that slides into the gantry, the donut-shaped device that houses the scanning equipment.

The patient is given the contrast material through a needle or catheter in the arm. Patients with a rapid heart rate or atrial fibrillation may be given a type of drug called a beta-blocker to slow the heart rate, allowing for a clearer image.

An x ray tube slides around the gantry, passing narrow beams of x rays in an arc over the body. These beams reflect onto an x ray detector positioned opposite the x ray tube. After one arc, the scanning table moves forward a certain distance and the tube transmits another arc of x rays.

The x ray detector transmits the x ray energy to a computer, which transforms the information about the reflected energy into an image.

A medical technician operates the scanning machine from another room. The technician may instruct the patient through an intercom not to move or swallow at certain times during the test to ensure that the images are clear.

The patient will receive the results after a physician who specializes in images of the body interprets the scans.

The test can take up to 1 hour.

POST-TEST GUIDELINES

There are no restrictions on a patient after CT angiography, although patients who received a sedative should arrange for a ride home after the procedure. Patients who receive a contrast agent should drink fluids following the test for hydration and to speed excretion of the agent.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS

Complications after CT angiography are rare, but can include:
  • Allergic reaction to the contrast agent; and
  • Kidney problems.
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