Better view of the heart leads to better care
Chest pain patients and their doctors now have a new tool in the war against heart disease. Coronary CT angiography enables physicians to see inside heart vessels without actually having to go inside the heart.
Using a technologically advanced computer tomography (CT) scanner, cardiologists and radiologists are able to take thousands of images of the heart and put them together to form a complete image or view just the arteries, muscle or veins. This helps the cardiologist spot problems like blocked arteries that could lead to a heart attack.
Unlike some other procedures, coronary CT is a noninvasive tool that gives physicians a better view of the heart. It is also an easier and more comfortable experience than many traditional diagnostic tools.
Coronary CT is usually done when:
- The patient has a high risk for heart disease, but doesn't have typical symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath or fatigue during physical activity.
- The patient has heart disease symptoms, such as chest pain unrelated to physical activity, but is considered to be at low risk for heart disease.
- The patient's stress test results are inconclusive or unclear.
- The patient may have hereditary abnormal coronary arteries.
The test is similar to a traditional CT scan, with the addition of a few extra steps. Before beginning the exam, several stickers are attached to the patient's chest to monitor his or her pulse. The patient is then given medication that will slow the heart rate. This typically takes an hour to start working. An IV (intravenous) catheter is then inserted into the patient's arm. Once the patient is on the CT table, contrast fluid will be injected into the IV. It is normal to experience a warm, flushed sensation following the injection.
After a few minutes, the CT scan will begin. Once the test is complete, a technologist will confirm that the images are of high enough quality to use and physicians will review the study. A cardiologist will examine the muscles and vessels that make up the heart, while a radiologist will view the areas and vessels not associated with the heart. Once the physicians clear the patient, he or she will be sent home and can immediately return to normal activities.
A serious topic - worth your attention
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 600,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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