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Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA)

Computed tomography angiography (CTA) is an imaging test. It uses X-rays and computer technology to make detailed pictures of your arteries. Before the test, an X-ray dye (contrast medium) is shot or injected into your vein. The dye makes it easier to see your blood vessels on the X-ray. Pictures are then taken with the CT scanner. A computer turns the CT images into 2- and 3-dimensional pictures.

Woman lying on back on scanner table. Health care provider is standing next to woman preparing to slide table into ring-shaped scanner.

Why CTA is done

CTA may be used to:

  • Check arteries in your belly, neck, lungs, pelvis, kidneys, or brain.

  • Look for a ballooning of the blood vessel wall (aneurysm) or a tear (dissection).

  • Check if a tube (stent) used to keep an artery open is working well.

  • Find damage to your arteries due to injuries.

  • Collect details on blood vessels that supply blood to tumors.

Getting ready for your test

Tell your health care provider if you:

  • Have diabetes

  • Have kidney disease

  • Are allergic to X-ray dye or other medicines

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • Are taking any medicines, herbs, or supplements. This includes over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen.  

 You may be told not to eat or drink anything for a few hours before the CTA. Follow any other instructions from your provider.

During your test

  • You will be asked to remove any hair clips, jewelry, false teeth, or other metal items that could show up on the X-ray.

  • You will lie down on the scanning table. An IV (intravenous) line will be put in a vein in your arm or hand.

  • The scanning table will be properly placed. The part of your body being checked will be inside the doughnut-shaped CT scanner.

  • One image may be taken first to be sure you are in the proper position for the test.

  • The IV will be hooked up to an automatic injection machine. This controls how often and how fast the X-ray dye is injected. The injection may continue during part of the exam.

  • The dye will be put into your vein through the IV line. You may feel warmth through your body when the dye is injected.

  • You can’t move while the X-rays are being taken. Pillows and foam pads may be used to help you stay still. You will be told to hold your breath for 10 to 25 seconds at a time.

  • The whole procedure may take 10 to 25 minutes.

Risks of CTA

All procedures have some risks. A CTA has some possible minor risks. These include:

  • Problems due to the X-ray dye, such as an allergic reaction or kidney damage

  • Skin damage from leaking X-ray dye near where the IV was put in

After your test

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the X-ray dye from your body.

  • You may eat as soon as you want to.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Grossman, Neil, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/11/2015
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