Computerized tomography or CT scan is a diagnostic method that can take pictures of blood vessels, bones, internal organs, and various structures in the body. Well, a CT scan for the heart can help diagnose various health problems related to the heart. To find out complete information about a CT scan of the heart, see the following explanation, yes.
Types of heart CT scan
Although equally useful for checking the condition of your heart, the British Heart Foundation states that there are two types of CT scans for the heart, namely CT coronary angiogram and CT calcium score.
1. CT coronary angiogram
This type of heart CT scan is used to measure blood flow to the coronary arteries. During this procedure, medical experts will inject a special dye based on Iodine into the bloodstream.
The goal, to make the inside of the blood vessels look more clearly. The fluid is injected through a vein in your arm.
Doctors need to do an examination with this type of heart CT scan if you have the potential to have coronary heart disease, but doctors don’t know what causes heart disease.
This means that this examination may aim to show that you do not actually have coronary heart disease. This examination is also useful to find out your potential for heart failure.
2. CT calcium score
Meanwhile, this type of heart CT scan is to measure levels of calcium or plaque in arteries. Usually, this examination will show calcium levels tend to be low, moderate, or even high.
Unlike a CT coronary angiogram, this examination usually does not use the typical dye. As a result, those of you who have an allergy to typical dyes don’t have to worry about going through it.
Similar to a CT coronary angiogram, this examination aims to find out the presence or absence of coronary heart disease. Calcium levels that are too low usually indicate this risk.
The purpose of a CT scan of the heart
A CT scan of the heart will provide detailed images of the heart and the arteries of the heart. This test can diagnose or detect the following diseases:
- Plaque in the arteries of the heart, which can determine the risk of developing heart disease.
- Congenital heart disease (problems with the heart that are present at birth).
Problems with heart valves.
- There is a problem with the arteries that supply the heart.
- Heart tumors.
- Problems with the pumping function of the heart.
Preparation before undergoing a heart CT scan
To get the best results in the heart CT scan process, usually a special contrast dye is needed. Well, medical experts will usually insert this special dye into your body before starting a CT coronary angiogram.
With this special dye, special areas of the body are more easily visible on X-rays. When giving this dye, a medical professional can inject it through a vein in the hand or palm.
If using contrast dye, you may not eat or drink for 4-6 hours before the CT scan of the heart takes place.
Before getting an injection containing this contrast dye, here are the things you need to do:
- Tell your doctor if your body has ever had a reaction to being injected with dye for radiation or other treatments. Your doctor may ask you to take certain medications before the test so your body can “accept” the contrast dye.
- Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking, as they may ask you not to take them temporarily before the test, including diabetes medication and metformin (Glucophage).
- Tell your doctor if you have kidney problems, as these dyes have the potential to make the condition worse.
After this contrast dye is injected into your body, you may feel the following:
- hot sensation,
- metallic taste in mouth,
- your body feels warm.
These sensations are normal and usually go away within a few seconds.
If you weigh more than 135 kilograms (kg), make sure that the weight does not exceed the weight limit of the CT scan machine.
The reason is, if your weight exceeds the limit, the CT scan machine can be damaged. Also, remove any jewelery that you used during this process. Then, the doctor will ask you to wear a hospital gown.
The procedure for carrying out a CT scan of the heart
When the heart examination procedure using a CT scan is about to begin, the nurse will first measure your height, weight, and blood pressure. The nurse may also take a blood sample to perform a fat analysis.
Then, the doctor will ask to lie on the CT scan table to start the examination procedure.
- You will lie in a straight position, with your head and feet outside the scanner machine.
- The doctor will attach electrodes that are connected to a machine to record the electrical activity of the heart on your chest. Previously, the doctor may give medication to stabilize the heartbeat.
- While in the scan machine, X-ray rays will shine around your body.
To get the best results, you should not move much during the CT scan of the heart. The medical professional may ask you to hold your breath for a while if necessary.
This inspection process will not take too long. You will probably only live it for about 10 minutes.
Then, a computer will generate different images for areas inside your body. These images can later be viewed on a monitor or printed on film. However, the hospital can also create a three-dimensional (3D) model of your heart.
Cardiac CT scan results
After this check process, you can continue with your normal activities. You can also eat as before if you have finished undergoing a heart CT scan. Later, you will get the results of this test.
You will get normal test results if your heart and blood vessels do not have certain health problems. If you undergo a CT calcium score, this can be seen from the calcium level in the arteries which gets a value of 0.
This means that your risk of having a heart attack in the next few years is very small. However, if calcium levels are too low, you are at risk for coronary heart disease.
Meanwhile, if the results of the examination using a CT scan of the heart show abnormal results, this may be because the calcium levels in the arteries are too high.
This could be indicative of several things, such as the following:
- There is a buildup of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries. This is a sign of atherosclerosis.
- The higher the calcium score in the heart, the more severe the condition you may be experiencing.
Therefore, talk to a medical professional about lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Even so, these abnormal results can also occur due to the following conditions:
- Aneurysm, which is swelling of a blood vessel.
- Congenital heart disease.
- Coronary heart disease.
- Heart valve problems.
- Inflammation of the sac that lines the heart (pericarditis).
- Heart tumors.
Cardiac CT scan risks
Although this procedure is for the diagnosis of heart disease, it does not mean undergoing a CT scan of the heart does not have any risks at all. Therefore, you still need to pay attention to the risks that may occur, such as:
1. Exposure to radiation
CT scans do expose your body to more radiation than X-rays. If the X-ray or CT scan machine scans your body too often, it can increase the risk of cancer.
However, if you only do this check once, the risk is still relatively small. Therefore, to avoid this possibility, consult your doctor first.
2. Allergy to contrast dyes
You may have an allergy to contrast dye. Therefore, tell your doctor or operator when a heart CT scan is about to take place if you have an allergy to contrast dye.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re allergic to any of the key ingredients in this test:
- If your medical professional still has to inject contrast dye into your body, your doctor may recommend that you take antihistamines or steroids before the test.
- If you have kidney disease or diabetes, you will be given extra fluids after the test to help clear the iodine from your body.
- And If you find it difficult to breathe during the test, immediately notify the CT scan operator of the heart.