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Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA)

CTA creates images of arteries throughout the body. A contrast medium (X-ray dye) is injected to make the blood vessels stand out. Pictures are then taken with the CT scanner. The CT images are processed by a computer to make a 3-dimensional picture.

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:

  • Examine arteries in the abdomen, neck, lungs, pelvis, kidneys, or brain.

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

  • See whether a stent (device used to keep an artery open) is working properly.

  • Detect damage to arteries due to injuries.

  • Gather details on blood vessels that supply tumors.

Preparing for the Procedure

  • You may be told not to eat or drink anything for a few hours before the procedure. 

  • Tell your radiologist what medications, herbs, or supplements you take; if you are or may be pregnant; or if you are allergic to contrast medium or other medications.

  • Remove hair clips, jewelry, dentures, and other metal items that could show up on the X-ray.

During the Procedure

  • You'll lie down on the scanning table. An IV (intravenous) line will be set up.

  • The scanning table will be positioned so that the part of your body being examined is inside the donut-shaped CT scanner.

  • One image may be taken to be sure you are positioned correctly for the test.

  • The IV will be hooked up to an automatic injection machine. This controls the timing and rate of injection. The injection may continue during part of the exam.

  • Contrast medium will be injected into a vein through the IV line. You may feel warmth through your body when the contrast material is injected.

  • You will need to remain still while the X-rays are being taken. Pillow and foam pads may be used to help you stay in position. You'll 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

Potential risks and complications of CTA are minimal and include:

  • Problems due to contrast medium, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

  • Skin damage from leaking contrast fluid near IV site

After the Procedure

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the contrast fluid from your system.

  • You may eat as soon as you wish to.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 12/15/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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