CT angiography, also known as CTA, is a type of diagnostic medical imaging procedure that combines the use of X-rays and computer technology to produce detailed images of the blood vessels in the body. Unlike traditional angiography, which is an invasive procedure that involves the insertion of a catheter into the bloodstream, CTA is a non-invasive way to visualize the cardiovascular system.
How does CT angiography work?
CT angiography is performed using a CT scanner, which is a large machine that uses X-rays to produce multiple cross-sectional images of the body. The patient lies on a table that moves through the scanner, and a contrast dye is injected into the bloodstream through an IV in the arm or hand. The dye helps to highlight the blood vessels during the scan.
The CT scanner then takes a series of X-ray images of the body from different angles, which are processed by a computer to create three-dimensional images of the blood vessels. This allows doctors to see the structure and function of the blood vessels in detail.
CT angiography can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions that affect the blood vessels, including:
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): This condition occurs when there is a build-up of plaque in the arteries that supply blood to the limbs, which can cause pain, numbness, and difficulty walking.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD): This condition occurs when there is a build-up of plaque in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, which can cause angina, heart attack, and other complications.
- Aortic aneurysm: This condition occurs when there is a bulge in the wall of the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body. If the aneurysm ruptures, it can be life-threatening.
- Stroke: CT angiography can be used to identify blockages or narrowing in the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, which can cause a stroke.
Advantages of CT angiography
There are several advantages to using CT angiography for the diagnosis and treatment of vascular conditions.
CT angiography is a non-invasive procedure that does not require the insertion of a catheter into the bloodstream, which can save time, reduce discomfort, and lower the risk of complications.
CT angiography produces high-quality images quickly, which allows doctors to make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan in a timely manner.
CT angiography is a highly accurate diagnostic tool that can detect even small changes in the blood vessels, which can help doctors to diagnose and treat vascular conditions more effectively.
Preparing for CT angiography
Before having a CT angiography procedure, patients may be asked to:
- Refrain from eating or drinking for a few hours before the procedure, especially if contrast dye will be used.
- Inform the doctor of any allergies or medical conditions that may affect the procedure.
- Update regarding any medications they are currently taking.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing and remove any jewelry that may interfere with the scan.
What to expect during CT angiography
During a CT angiography procedure, patients may be asked to lie on a table and remain still for several minutes while the scan is conducted. They may also be asked to hold their breath to avoid blurring the images.
If contrast dye is used, patients may experience a warm sensation or a metallic taste in the mouth when the dye is injected. This is normal and usually goes away quickly.
Risks and side effects of CT angiography
Like all medical procedures, CT angiography carries some risks and potential side effects. These may include:
- Allergic reactions to the contrast dye, in rare cases.
- Exposure to ionizing radiation, which can increase the risk of cancer over time, especially for children and young adults.
- Injection site reactions, such as pain, swelling, or infection.
- In rare instances, an adverse reaction of the contrast dye can lead to kidney damage.
Interpreting CT angiography results
Once the CT angiography scan is complete, the images are sent to a radiologist for interpretation. The radiologist will analyze the images and create a report that is sent to the patient’s doctor. The doctor will then schedule an appointment with the patient to discuss the results and recommend a course of treatment, if necessary.
CT angiography is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that can provide detailed images of the blood vessels in the body. It is a safe, rapid, and highly accurate way to diagnose and treat vascular conditions such as peripheral arterial disease, coronary artery disease, aortic aneurysm, and stroke.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a vascular condition or have been diagnosed with one, talk to your doctor about whether CT angiography may be a suitable option for you.
Thank you for learning about CT angiography with me; see you again in another interesting article.