Cardiac CT Scan (CT Coronary Angiography)

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY1065/2019
  • Departments: Radiology
  • Last Updated: 29 July 2019


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information. Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and the healthcare team, but may act as a starting point for discussion. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.

What is a cardiac CT scan

A cardiac CT scan is a specialised test that uses a CT scanner and X-rays to produce detailed images of your heart and surrounding blood vessels.  This allows us to see any narrowing or blockage of the arteries around your heart.

Why do I need the cardiac CT scan?

You will have recently seen your consultant who will have discussed with you their reason for wanting a cardiac CT scan.

Some reasons include:

  • Atypical/unusual chest pain
  • Family history of coronary artery disease
  • Evaluation of existing heart problems
  • You may have had a different test which has been inconclusive or more information is required
  • Your cardiologist may want further imaging assessment of your heart for reasons other than the ones mentioned above

What are the benefits of a cardiac CT scan?

CT coronary angiography gives details pictures of your heart and blood vessels (called coronary arteries), which help us to make a diagnosis or further assessment of any existing health problems.  This will help the cardiologists to plan the best treatment for you.

How do I prepare for the cardiac CT scan?

Please read the information leaflet.  Share the information it contains with your partner and family (if you wish) so that they can be of help and support.  There may be information they need to know, especially if they are taking care of you following this examination.

For the best results you will need to be relaxed and your heart rate needs to be slow and stable.  The following will help to achieve this.

  • Do not consume sugary or caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee including decaffeinated drinks, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, chocolates or medications containing caffeine 12 hours before the scan, as these will raise your heart rate on the day of the scan.
  • Do not undertake cardio-vascular/physical activity that will raise your heart rate on the day of the scan.
  • Do not smoke on the day of your appointment.

If you are an asthmatic and use an inhaler, please bring this with you when you attend your appointment.

You should continue to take your routine medications as prescribed.  Please bring the list of your current medication with you.

You should be able to return to your normal daily routine activity after your scan.

 You are welcome to bring a dressing gown if you wish.

What will happen?

Once you have booked in at the CT/MRI reception you will be asked to sit in the waiting room.  A Clinical Imaging Support Worker (CISW) will ask you to change into a hospital gown.  A small tube called a cannula will be placed into one of the veins in your arm by the CISW.  This is used to inject a dye into your arm during your scan which will show up your blood vessels and heart.  Following this you will be asked to sit for at least 15 minutes to relax to keep your heart rate slow and steady.

A radiology nurse will take you into a quiet area and assess your heart rate.  They will also ask you some questions regarding medication /allergies/health conditions.

If your heart rate is too high you will be given beta-blockers to help to lower it.

Once your heart rate is at a suitable rate you will be taken into the CT room by one of the radiographers.  You will be asked to lie on the CT bed.  Small electrodes (sticky dots) will be placed on your chest and attached to an electrocardiograph (ECG) machine.  You will be asked to raise your arms above your head and lie still whilst we take the images.

A contrast dye may be injected into the vein, through the cannula in your arm.  This may give you a ‘hot flush’ and a feeling as though you have ‘wet the bed’ (but you will not do so).  You may also get a metallic taste in your mouth.  All of these sensations are perfectly normal and pass within a few minutes.

Following the scan you will asked to wait in the department for a further 20-30 minutes.  The Radiology nurses will perform some basic observations, for example, taking your blood pressure.  When these are completed and within acceptable limits you will be allowed to leave the department.

Please expect to be in the department for 1 to 2 hours.

Can there any complications or risks?

Unborn babies are more susceptible to radiation than adults so please telephone the department before your appointment if there is any possibility that you are pregnant.

CT scanning uses X-rays to produce the images.  Patients are often worried about being exposed to radiation. However, it is important to put any risks into perspective.  The risk to your health from not having the required examination is likely to be much greater than any risk from the radiation itself.

The contrast liquid we inject may cause a brief allergic reaction such as itching, nausea, or rapid breathing, which is easily treated. Severe reactions including difficulty breathing are quite rare but do occur. The Radiographers and Radiologists are well equipped and trained to deal with these.

What happens afterwards?

After the scan we will remove the electrodes and ask you to wait in the waiting room.  We will leave the cannula in your arm for a short while.  We will remove this before you leave the department.

We advise that you eat and drink something before you leave the hospital.  You can resume your usual activities after the scan.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the CT Department (01482) 622043

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

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