notification Created with Sketch. CORONAVIRUS: We are still taking extraordinary precautions to keep you safe Coronavirus update

CT Cardiac Scan (CTCA) – Patient Information

This patient information aims to answer some of the questions you may have about having a cardiac CT scan (CTCA). It explains the benefits, risks and alternatives to the procedure.  It explains what you can expect when you come to hospital. If you have any further questions please speak to your consultant or the imaging department.

What is a cardiac CT scan?

A cardiac CT scan is a specialised scan using x-rays to look at your heart but most notably the vessels that supply blood to the heart. A cardiac CT scan is also called a CT coronary angiogram (CTCA). It can help your cardiologist find the cause of your heart problem and the best treatment options for you. A cardiac scan is helpful for people:

  • At risk of developing coronary artery disease
  • Who have unclear results from other tests
  • Who have had heart bypass surgery to check their grafts
  • Detect fatty or calcium deposits (plaques) in the coronary arteries

What should I do before I come for my scan?


If there is any chance you could be pregnant please call the department to reshedule your scan.


If you are taking tablets for erectile dysfunction – for example sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra) or avanafil (Staxyn) – you should stop using these for three days before your scan appointment. Please talk to your referring Doctor if you have any questions.

Checklist on the day of your scan:

  • Do not drink or eat anything containing caffeine (such as tea, coffee or cola) from midnight before the scan
  • Do not take metformin on the day of the scan if you are a tablet-controlled diabetic eat for two hours before the scan
  • Do not eat for two hours before your scan
  • Do have a light breakfast
  • Do allow yourself enough time to be in the department 15min prior to appointment time
  • Do tell us if you have had an allergic reaction to iodine in the past
  • Do bring in a list of medications you are currently taking
  • Do continue to take sips of water prior to your scan to keep you hydrated

Many patients come to the appointment with a companion who can travel home with them, but they will not be allowed into the examination room. You will be asked to hang around after the completion of the scan depending on each individuals situation and will be offered tea or coffee until it is deemed appropriate for you to leave.

Consent – asking for your consent

Upon arrival you will be asked to fill in a Imaging Registration Form which will allow you to provide your finance/insurance details.

Further consent forms will be by performed by the Radiographer as they provide you with all the information of the procedure including the medications/injections required as part of the scan.

During this process any questions, concerns and if you have any contraindications to any of the medications can be discussed and acted on accordingly.

What medications are used as part of my scan?

There are three medications that can be used:

Beta Blockers – Beta blockers are used to help bring your heart rate down to a suitable level to be able to capture still images of your heart. Some patients won’t need beta blockers if their resting heart rate is low enough ~60bpm. If you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to ask. Your Cardiologist should have assessed whether Beta Blockers are safe to use (one of our experienced Radiologists will administer when and if it necessary).

Glyceryl Trinitrate (GTN) – This is a strong peppery spray administered under the tongue of the individual. GTN acts a vasodilator which allows for better visualisation of the coronary arteries.

X-ray Dye (Omnipaque) – This is an Iodine based contrast agent that is injected intravenously during the scan. It is used to visualise the necessary vascular anatomy within the scan and is essential for the scan. You may experience a hot flush and a feeling that you have ‘wet the bed’ (but you will not do so). You may also get a metallic taste in your mouth. If you experience any itching, sneezing, nasal congestion, scratchy throat or swelling of your face, please notify the Radiographer immediately.

If you have any concerns, queries or questions please don’t hesitate to ask the Radiographer or Radiologist during the procedure.

What happens during the scan?

When you arrive and have filled in the required documentaion one of our Radiographers will bring you downstairs to our CT scanning suite.

We will:

  • Ask you to get changed into a gown with the opening at the front (to allow for the easy application of ECG electrodes to measure your heart rate during the scan
  • You will be asked to come into the CT Room with all of your belongings
  • The Radiographer will then go through the consent and medications forms
  • Once consented and the procedure has been explained you will be asked to lie down on the CT table
  • ECG electrode dots will be applied to your chest to monitor your heart rate
  • Your blood pressure will be checked prior to the scan (and monitored after as well)
  • A small needle (cannula) will be put into your vein in your arm to give you medicines during the scan
  • One of our Radiologists (Doctors who specialise in medical imaging procedures) will come in to administer some Beta Blocker medication if it is deemed necessary
  • We will then ask you to raise your arms above your head and lie very still while each set of pictures are taken
  • You will be asked to hold your breath for about 10 to 20 seconds whilst the scanning takes place
  • GTN may be sprayed under your tongue halfway through the scan process to help dilate your blood vessels
  • At the appropriate time the X-ray Dye will be injected into your vein through the cannula in your arm as the scan is performed

What happens after the scan?

We will:

  • Remove the electrodes and cannula
  • Allow you to get changed and sit back upstairs
  • Monitor your blood pressure until we deem it safe for you to leave

When will I get the results?

Our average report turnaround is less than 24 hours. Please contact your referring doctors to discuss your results.

What are the risks?

CT scans use radiation. The level of radiation used is very small and the benefits of the scan are believed to outweigh the risks. The contrast dye contains iodine which some people can be allergic to. The medications can also cause a temporary dip in your blood pressure. You will be asked to stay in the department after your scan so that we can check for any negative signs or symptoms and treat them appropriately.