How does the CT scan work?

Cardiac computed tomography (CT) is a painless test that takes detailed X-ray pictures of the heart.

During the scan, you lie on a table that moves through a donut-shaped X-ray machine (the CT scanner). It moves around your body, taking images of each part of your heart. You never touch the CT scanner, but the CT may require you take an oral or injectable contrast dye. The contrast dye highlights your coronary arteries on the X-ray images. Using these images, a computer creates a three-dimensional picture of the whole heart.

Why is the test performed?

Cardiac CT scans help detect or evaluate:

  • Coronary heart disease 
  • Calcium buildup in the walls of the coronary arteries (This type of CT scan is called a CardioScan)
  • Problems with the aorta, such as an aneurysm or a dissection
  • A pulmonary embolism
  • Problems in the pulmonary veins
  • Problems with heart function or heart valves
  • Pericardial disease
  • Results of coronary artery bypass grafting