Dr. Sarna Valliappan is a board-certified radiologist practicing at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: My physician has ordered me to get a CT scan to check my arteries. How does that work? Is it painful?
Answer: Actually, your physician has recommended one of the most painless procedures there is for diagnosis of potential problems.
A CT angiogram is a non-invasive test that replaces the catheter angiograms patients used to undergo to check for blockage in their arteries. With a CT angiogram, you will be placed on the CT scanner bed, where you will receive an IV in the arm that injects dye into your veins to travel through the body.
Within 30 to 60 seconds, the dye will be dispersed to all of the areas of your chest and the CT machine will take images of your arteries—in total the procedure takes less than 10 minutes. Like most CT machines, the unit at Banner Estrella is shaped like a large upright doughnut with a horizontal bed that slips through the “hole” in the middle. The design is such that you shouldn’t feel claustrophobic during the procedure.
Within 15 minutes, your physician will have the images to interpret. Then, your physician can determine what course of treatment, if any, needs to be followed. This diagnostic test, which is a relatively new procedure, actually provides better images of your chest than the old catheter procedures, in a shorter amount of time, with no pain or recuperation.
In the past, physicians would have had to make a small incision in your upper thigh and thread the catheter up your artery to get the dye exactly where it needed to go for imaging. Now, with the CT angiograms, we can track the dye through all areas of the body instead of just the one artery, making it a more complete test of your body’s systems working together.