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Computed Tomography Angiography
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by Laurie Rosenblum, MPH
Computed tomography angiography (CTA) is a specialized x-ray that examines blood flow in blood vessels when they are filled with a contrast material. Contrast material is a substance that makes the blood vessels show on an x-ray. Computed tomography (CT) uses a complex machine to take x-rays from many different views, producing detailed 2-dimensional images that can be combined by a computer to form 3-dimensional images.
CTA can be used to view blood vessels throughout the body. It is most commonly used to study the:
Reasons for Test TOP
This test is used to help identify diseased, narrowed, enlarged, and blocked blood vessels and locate where internal bleeding may be occurring. Some specific uses include:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Test
Prior to the surgery, the doctor will do a physical exam.
Talk to your doctor about any medications, herbs, or supplements you are taking. You may have to stop certain medications, food, or beverages before the test.
At the care center:
Description of Test
An IV is placed in a vein, and you will 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 will be given a small amount of contrast material through the IV 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. You will be asked to hold your breath for 10-25 seconds to ensure that the images are not blurred by any movement. It only takes seconds to record all the images needed.
After Test TOP
The images are checked. If needed, some are repeated.
After the procedure, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions. During the hours after the procedure, drink extra fluids to help flush the contrast material from your body.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
Will It Hurt? TOP
Although the procedure is not painful, you may feel warm and flushed when contrast material is injected.
The findings will be reported to your doctor, usually within 24 hours. Your doctor will discuss the findings with you and any treatment needed.
Call Your Doctor TOP
After the test, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Heart Association
Texas Heart Institute
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
University of Ottawa Heart Institute
Cardiac computed tomography. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 3, 2015. Accessed March 2, 2016.
Coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA). Radiological Society of North America Radiology info website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated June 23, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 5/2/2014
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