Cardiac computed tomography (Cardiac CT) is an x-ray test that physicians use to take clear and detailed pictures of the heart. Cardiac CT is used to help detect or evaluate problems such as coronary heart disease, calcium buildup, pulmonary embolism, aneurysms, and dissections. It is sometimes used in patients who obtained unclear results from a previous stress test. Cardiac CT will likely not be used as a screening test in patients with no symptoms because of long-term radiation exposure concerns and lack of proven benefit.

What can a patient expect during a cardiac CT?

A Cardiac CT is a quick, painless test. An x-ray machine will move around the patient’s body in a circular motion, taking pictures of each part of the heart. Sometimes a contrast dye is used - injected into a vein in the arm through a needle. This highlights the coronary arteries on the x-ray pictures, and is typically referred to as a coronary CT angiography (CTA).