What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

During the procedure

CT angiograms are usually performed in the radiology department of a hospital or an outpatient imaging facility.

Just before you begin your scan, you'll need to remove clothing above your waist, as well as any jewelry. You'll change into a hospital gown.

Because your heart's constantly in motion while it beats, your doctor may give you a medication called a beta blocker, which will slow your heart rate. This will allow the doctor to see your heart more clearly. Some people have side effects from beta blockers, such as shortness of breath or wheezing in some people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Let your health care provider know if you've had side effects from beta blockers in the past.

Some newer CT machines can be used without slowing the heart rate down. However, when beta blockers can be used, a slowed heart rate generally produces the clearest CT images.

A technician will insert an intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm to inject the dye that will make your heart's arteries visible on the images taken by the CT scanner. You'll receive some numbing medication before the IV is inserted. Although the actual scanning portion of the test takes as few as 5 seconds, it may take up to an hour for the whole process because beta blockers need time to slow your heart rate sufficiently.

The technician will place some electrodes on your chest to record your heart rate throughout the exam. When you're ready to be scanned, you'll lie on a long table that slides through a short, doughnut-like machine.

During the test, an X-ray tube will move rapidly around your chest to take images of your heart from many different angles. You won't see the tube moving.

A technician will operate the machine from a room that's separated from your exam room by a glass window. There will be an intercom system the technician can use to talk to you.

It's important to stay as still as possible and hold your breath during the scanning portion of the exam. Any movement can blur the X-ray images.

After the procedure

After your CT angiogram is completed, you can return to your normal daily activities. You should be able to drive yourself home or to work.

The images from your CT angiogram should be ready soon after your test. Usually, the doctor who asked you to have a CT angiogram should discuss the results of the test with you.

May 15, 2014