What is a Coronary CTA?
A Non-Invasive Coronary CTA (CT Angiography) is a highly accurate (97 percent) heart-imaging scan we use to determine if fatty or calcium deposits have built up in the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart. Unlike a screening exam, you must have symptoms of coronary artery disease or certain risk factors for us to use this scan. Your exam will also include calcium scoring, coronary artery assessment and a functional assessment (wall motion and ejection fraction). Learn more about Cardiac CTA.
Can the exam visualize soft plaques?
Yes. Using our state-of-the-art equipment, our trained physicians can determine the locations and extent of soft plaques.
Which patients are candidates for the exam?
Coronary CTA is a diagnostic exam. Indications for a coronary CTA include patients who experience symptoms of coronary artery disease. If you are a man older than 45 or woman older than 50 (or past menopause); your family has a history of coronary artery disease; you smoke or live/work with second-hand smoke; live an inactive lifestyle; have high cholesterol or blood pressure (hypertension); or if your physician diagnoses you as overweight, you are at risk for coronary artery disease. Those with an irregular heart rate, those who are pregnant and those who cannot hold their breath for more than 10 seconds may not be a candidate for Coronary CTA.
What are the advantages of coronary CTA?
These scans are noninvasive and painless, placing no additional strain on patients’ hearts. Calcium and fat deposits in your heart may be deadly over time. A 97-percent effective coronary CTA allows you and your doctor to better design a healthier lifestyle that works for you. Early detection is the best prevention for heart attacks, and the sooner you have a gauge for the exact condition of your heart and its function, the better your prevention plan may be.
What are the disadvantages of coronary CTA?
With a non-invasive exam, we do not measure or sample blood directly. We cannot measure the pressures in the chambers of the heart and other direct measures of the blood with a coronary CTA, which means these tests are not 100-percent effective at detecting the full extent of coronary artery disease. However, they remain the safest, least-invasive means for checking overall heart health for patients who are experiencing symptoms of heart disease.
How long will the exam take?
A coronary CTA takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.
Are contrast or other medications used to perform the exam?
A contrast agent will be injected into a vein to highlight the tissues of the heart and vessels. For some patients, we may use a medication to control or slow your heart rate for a few minutes to monitor its function.
Are there any risks for the patient?
As with any contrast-enhanced CT, some patients may have an adverse reaction to the contrast agent. Our staff is trained to look for reactions to the contrast injection and be ready to intervene if necessary. Other risks include infections at the injection site and exposure to ionizing radiation – though we do perform CT exams with the lowest dose of radiation possible for the imaging objective.
Are there medications that may interfere with my CT exam?
Not typically, but we do ask you to disclose any medications you have been prescribed or take over the counter. Patients with diabetes will receive specific instructions as fasting may affect insulin dosages.
Can this technology be used to evaluate placement of a coronary artery stent?
Yes. For stents larger than 3 mm, cardiac CT is an excellent tool for assessing in-stent lumen. For stents smaller than 2.5 mm, the results may be equivocal.
How do I prepare for my exam?
You must not have anything to eat or drink for four hours prior to your exam and you should avoid all caffeine for 12 hours prior to your appointment.
How do I schedule an exam? What information is needed to schedule an exam?
Call our office at (315) 624-6254. You will need a physician’s prescription for this exam, and our staff needs information from your physician to effectively care for you. This information includes whether or not you have or have a history of diabetes, kidney disease, coronary artery disease, allergies to dye, a pacemaker, a defibrillator or a history of atrial fibrillation. If you are older than 40, we will need recent (within 30 days) BUN and creatinine-level lab tests from your physician. If you have had previous chest CTs, please let us know.
Is the exam covered by insurance?
As with all types of services, insurance carriers have different coverage, deductibles and co-pays. At present, we bill these services in the same way we bill a CTA of the chest. Your doctor must provide a medically necessary reason for this test to help ensure its coverage by your insurance provider.
When will we have the results?
Your physician will have the results within 24 hours. At you or your physician’s request, we may generate a preliminary report within two hours of the exam.
Is low-dose CT really important?
Yes. Though we know the risks of CT and contrast agents to be minimal, our ability to adjust dosages and radiation exposure allows us to mitigate even that small risk to ensure the benefits always outweigh any concerns, especially in children and smaller patients.