A coronary computed tomography angiogram, or cardiac CTA, uses CT technology and dye to produce images of the heart and blood vessels. This minimally invasive procedure can help diagnose cardiac disorders by producing detailed, 3D images. Cardiac CTA is very useful for ruling out stenosis, visualizing blood vessels and assessing plaque buildup.

Who should have cardiac testing?
Patients with cardiac symptoms or who are at risk for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) benefit most from cardiac CTA testing. These patients will typically have multiple risk factors and/or a strong family history or cardiac disease. Some of the most common risk factors of CAD include:

  • High blood cholesterol level
  • Family history of heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity

How to prepare for cardiac CTA
Because cardiac CTA is a specialized procedure, some special preparation is needed. Before your cardiac study, please do the following:

  • Bring a copy of the order for the procedure from your referring physician, your insurance card and photo identification
  • On the day of your exam, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
  • Avoid clothing with metal zippers, hair pins, jewelry and snaps
  • Do not drink or eat solid food for 3 hours before the examination
  • Patients scheduled for abdominal and/or pelvic studies should arrive 30 minutes early to drink oral contrast material used to better visualize the stomach and intestines
  • Take your usual medications
  • Always inform your technologist or doctor if you are pregnant or could be pregnant

What to expect during the study?
During the procedure, a dye is injected to create high-quality images that physicians use to detect plaque buildup in the arteries. Because cardiac CTA uses CT technology, the procedure is very similar to a typical CT scan. The technologist will ask you to lay on the CT table and help position you based on your study. You will be alone in the room during your scan; however, the technologist can see, hear and speak with you at all times. This study will take about 5 to 10 minutes.

When your examination is over, you may resume your normal daily activities unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. One of our board-certified radiologists will review the images and send a report to your doctor.

Understanding contrast
Cardiac CTA examinations require that you take a special dye, often called “contrast.” Contrast can provide clearer images and allow better diagnostic capabilities. If you are given contrast, you might be asked not to eat or drink anything for 3-4 hours before the test. Contrast given through an IV might cause a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea and a warm flushing sensation. These sensations are normal and usually go away within a few minutes. Contrast typically does not cause symptoms; however, some mild symptoms, such as nausea, headache or itching. More complex side effects are rare; however, if you experience severe symptoms, inform your doctor immediately.
If you have kidney disease or diabetes, you should receive plenty of fluids before and after the test and be closely monitored for kidney problems. If you have diabetes or are on kidney dialysis, talk to your health care provider before the test about your risks.


Are you having a study with contrast? Learn more about imaging contrast, including what to expect before, during and after your study.

Scroll to Top