What you can expect

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

Before the procedure

Your doctor might give you a medication called a beta blocker to slow your heart rate, enabling the scan to produce a clearer image. Let your health care provider know if you've had side effects from beta blockers in the past.

You might also be given nitroglycerin to widen (dilate) your coronary arteries. If you're allergic to contrast material, you might be given medication to lower your risk of a reaction.

During the procedure

A technician will give you numbing medication before inserting an intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm to inject the dye that will make your heart's arteries visible on the images. Although the actual scanning portion of the test takes as few as five seconds, it may take up to an hour for the whole process.

The technician will place electrodes on your chest to record your heart rate. You'll lie on a long table that slides through a short, tunnel-like machine. During the scan you'll need to stay still and hold your breath so as not to blur the images. If you're uncomfortable in closed spaces, ask your doctor if you need medication to help you relax.

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 that allows you and the technician to communicate with each other.

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. Drink plenty of water to help flush the dye from your system.

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