What Is a Cardiac CTA?
Cardiac computed tomography angiography (CTA) is an imaging test of the heart that determines if plaque buildup has narrowed a patient’s coronary arteries. Plaque is made of various substances circulating in the blood (such as fat, cholesterol and calcium) that deposit along the inner lining of the arteries and can reduce blood flow or even block it completely.
Cardiac CTA is a minimally invasive test in which CT imaging and intravenous (IV) contrast are used to visualize and evaluate the coronary arteries. CT uses X-ray pictures taken from multiple different angles around the body to create cross-sectional images that appear as “slices” of the heart and other organs. When contrast material is introduced into the bloodstream during the procedure, the coronary arteries and other vessels appear bright white, which allows the radiologist to better detect areas of vessel narrowing and other abnormalities.
Many physicians advocate coronary CTA for patients who have:
- Suspected abnormal anatomy of the coronary arteries
- Low or medium risk for coronary artery disease, including patients who have chest pain and normal, non-diagnostic or unclear lab and ECG results
- Non-acute chest pain
- New or worsening symptoms with a previous normal stress test result
- Unclear or inconclusive stress test results
- New onset heart failure with reduced left ventricle function and low or medium risk for coronary artery disease
- Medium risk of coronary artery disease, before non-coronary cardiac surgery
- Coronary artery bypass grafts
For patients with one or more of the above indications, cardiac CTA can provide important information about the presence and extent of plaque in the coronary arteries. Cardiac CTA can also detect other potential causes of symptoms such as a collapsed lung, pulmonary embolus, or aortic abnormalities. Your primary healthcare provider or cardiac specialist, possibly in consultation with a radiologist with expertise in cardiac imaging, will determine whether cardiac CTA is appropriate for you.