Diagnostic Tests & Procedures
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CT Imaging

In the past several years, computerized tomography (CT) has revolutionized non-invasive cardiac and vascular. CT uses the same x-ray technology and dye that is used in the cardiac catheterization laboratory but the similarities end there. Traditional cardiac catheterization or angiography is an invasive test done in the hospital where a catheter is introduced into an artery then threaded to the heart and dye injected into the coronary arteries. The power of modern CT scanners makes it possible to acquire much of the same information in an office setting in less than one hour with just an intravenous injection of dye. The speed of the scanner then allows it to be focused on any organ or artery of the body.

Image of the heart

CORONARY ARTERY CALCIUM SCORE (CAS)

Calcium in the coronary arteries is a sign of the extent of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and can now be measured by CT scanning in less than 15 minutes with a low dose of radiation. This test requires no dye and there is no preparation. It is the most powerful method to assess cardiac risk. It is especially important in patients that have one or more of the traditional risk factors such as family history, high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes. Everyone can assess their own risk – go to Know Your Own Risk. We recommend a coronary calcium score for anyone with intermediate risk.

What to expect
  • No special preparation
  • Less than 15 minutes


CORONARY CT ANGIOGRAPHY (Coronary CTA)

Imaging the coronary arteries is a challenge because they are so small and are in almost constant motion. Newer scanners are now able to evaluate the degree of blockages, at times eliminating the need to go to the cardiac catheterization laboratory. The advantages to this non-invasive approach are reduced risk and the convenience an office procedure taking less than one hour with no recovery. The resolution of the CT scanner is only a little less than the invasive catheterization. As with any x-ray test there is a risk from the radiation that needs to be balanced with the gain from the information. For many patients the CT study provides all the answers. Only a cardiologist is able to make an informed decision regarding the best test for an individual patient.

What to expect

  • Fasting for 8 hours except medicine (diabetics should seek special instructions)
  • An intravenous injection of dye
  • Possible administration of medicines to slow the heart – the test is best performed with a heart rate of 60
  • Total time less than 1 hour
  • No recovery

 

CT ANGIOGRAPHY OF PERIPHERAL ARTERIES (CTA)

The other larger arteries of the body are also susceptible to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) but imaging them is much less of a challenge than for the coronary arteries of the heart. CT scanning provides a very accurate picture of these arteries and any blockages that are present. It is an outpatient test requiring only an intravenous injection of dye and no recovery. As with any x-ray test there is a risk from the radiation that needs to be balanced with the gain from the information that is obtained.

What to expect

  • Fasting for 8 hours except medication (diabetics should seek special instruction)
  • An intravenous injection of dye
  • Total time less than 1 hour
  • No recovery
Southcoast Physicians Group An affiliate of Southcoast Physicians Group.