Computed Tomography Angiography
all information

Computed Tomography Angiography

(CTA)

Kom-PU-ted To-MOG-ra-fi An-ji-OG-ra-fi

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Computed tomography angiography (CTA) is a specialized x-ray that examines blood flow in arteries when they are filled with a contrast material (a substance that makes the blood vessels show on an x-ray). Computed tomography (CT) uses a sophisticated machine to take x-rays from many different views, producing detailed two-dimensional images that can be combined by a computer to form three-dimensional images.

Blood Vessel in Brain

Blood Flow Brain

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Parts of the Body Involved

CTA can be used to view blood vessels throughout the body. It is most commonly used to study the:

  • Brain
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Legs or arms

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to help doctors identify diseased, narrowed, enlarged, and blocked blood vessels and locate where internal bleeding may be occurring. Some specific uses include:

  • Detect atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) or an aneurysm (ballooning out of a section of a blood vessel), which could lead to a heart attack or stroke
  • Examine arteries in the lungs to check for an embolism (blockage of a blood vessel by a blood clot or other foreign substance)
  • Evaluate disease in kidney arteries and help get ready for a kidney transplant

Heart Attack

Heart Attack

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

  • Allergies, especially to x-ray dye, iodine, medications, or certain foods including shellfish
  • Underlying kidney problems or diabetes may predispose you to a higher risk of decreased kidney function from the administered x-ray dye.
  • Bleeding disorder

What to Expect

Prior to the Procedure

  • At your appointment before the test, your doctor will likely ask about:
    • Your medical history
    • Medications you take
    • Allergies
    • Whether you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • In the days before your procedure:
    • Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding any changes in how you take your medications and any restrictions on your eating and drinking.
  • At the health care facility:
    • A healthcare professional explains the procedure and answers any questions you may have
    • You remove your clothes and put on a gown or robe
    • You remove all jewelry, hair clips, dentures, and other objects that could show on the x-rays and make the images difficult to read

Anesthesia

None

Description of the Procedure

Most of the time needed for this exam is spent setting up. An intravenous line (IV) is placed in a vein, and you lie down on a narrow table. Pillows and straps may be used to keep you in a certain position. The part of your body that will be studied is moved inside the opening of the CT machine, and a test image is taken. You are given a small amount of contrast material to check how long it takes to get to the area to be studied. Next, the IV is connected to an automatic injector and contrast material is injected. Then, the scan begins.

You must stay still during the scan. The technologist may ask you to hold your breath for 10 to 25 seconds to ensure that the images are not blurred by any movement. It only takes seconds to record all the images needed. During the time that the imaging is not occurring, you can ask the technologist and/or doctor any questions and express any concerns you may have.

After Procedure

The images are checked. If needed, some are repeated.

How Long Will It Take?

You will spend about 20 to 60 minutes in the examination room.

Will It Hurt?

Although the procedure is not painful, you may feel warm and flushed when contrast material is injected.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare but can include:

  • Allergic reaction to contrast material
  • Kidney damage from contrast material

The risk of complications is much lower with CT angiography compared to catheter angiography. This is because with CTA the contrast material is injected into a vein instead of into a large artery.

Average Hospital Stay

None

Postoperative Care

During the hours after the procedure, drink extra fluids, as instructed by your doctor, to help flush the contrast material from your body.

Outcome

The radiologist (doctor who specializes in working with medical images) will examine the images and report the findings to your personal doctor, usually within 24 hours. Your doctor will discuss the findings with you and any treatment needed.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

It is essential for you to monitor your recovery once you leave the healthcare facility. That way, you can alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following reactions to the contrast material occurs, call your doctor:

  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Swollen, itchy eyes
  • Tightness of throat
  • Trouble breathing

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.americanheart.org

RadiologyInfo
http://www.radiologyinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index_e.html

Health Sciences Centre
http://www.hsc.mb.ca/

References:

Computed tomography angiography (CTA). RadiologyInfo website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org . Accessed May 7, 2003.

Computerized tomography. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?id=FL00065 . Accessed June 5, 2003.

CT and MR set to play major role in evaluating coronary artery disease. Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: http://www.rsna.org/publications/rsnanews/feb03/ct_mr-1.html . Accessed May 15, 2003.



Last reviewed November 2007 by J. Peter Oettgen, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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