Cardiac Computerized Axial Tomography
What you should know
Cardiac Computerized Axial Tomography (Precare) Care Guide
- A cardiac computed tomography is a test that is used to take pictures of your heart. It is also called a cardiac CT. This test is done using x-rays and a computer. The CT scan machine is shaped like a large ring, and has a table that goes through it. A cardiac CT may be done with or without contrast (dye). Dye is a type of liquid that is put into your blood vessels. The dye helps caregivers see problems with your heart and it's blood vessels.
- A cardiac CT done for calcium scoring can show if you are at risk of having a heart attack. Certain heart conditions can cause chest pain or trouble breathing. A cardiac CT may show the cause of these symptoms. If you have had other heart tests, a cardiac CT can help explain the results of those tests. It may also be done before heart surgery to help caregivers plan the surgery. A cardiac CT can show a heart problem that may need treatment. It can also help you and your caregiver decide on a treatment plan if one is needed.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
- There is a small chance that x-rays may put you at higher risk of getting cancer. A cardiac CT may not show certain heart problems. The results of the scan may show a problem that is not really there. If you use a medical device such as a pacemaker, it may not work right during or after your CT scan. Your kidneys may be damaged by dye, if it is used during your CT scan. You are at a higher risk of this happening if you have diabetes or kidney disease. You may have an allergic reaction to the dye.
- If you do not have a cardiac CT, a heart problem may not be found. The heart problem may not be treated as it should be. Your signs and symptoms such as chest pain may get worse, and you may even die. Talk to your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your CT scan.
Before your test:
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop taking any medicines before your test.
- If you have diabetes, ask your caregiver about what you may eat and drink before your CT scan. Ask your caregiver if you need to change when and how much medicine to take, and how often to check your blood sugar.
- If dye will be used during your scan, tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish or iodine, as you may also be allergic to the dye. If you have kidney problems or other health conditions, tell your caregiver. You may need to drink more liquids than you usually do. Ask your caregiver if you need to change how much liquid to drink before and after the CT scan.
- Tell your caregiver if you are afraid of small spaces. Being inside the CT machine may make you worried or scared. Your caregiver may offer you medicine to help you relax.
- If you are female, tell your caregiver if you are or think you might be pregnant. The x-rays used in this test may hurt your unborn baby.
- You may need to have blood taken and tested before your scan. Ask you caregiver for more information about this and any other tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
The night before your test:
- Your caregiver may give you medicine to slow down your heartbeat. Having a slower heartbeat will help the CT machine take pictures of your heart as it beats.
The day of your test:
- Do not eat or drink anything that has caffeine in it for at least six hours before your test. This includes coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and some sports drinks and bars.
- Do not eat any food for at least three hours before your test. Drink liquids that do not have caffeine, such as water, during this time. Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.
- A cardiac CT may cause devices, such as pacemakers and drug infusion pumps, to stop working correctly. Tell your caregiver if you use any medical devices. The device may need to be turned off before your cardiac CT.
What will happen:
- You will be asked to change into a hospital gown. Caregivers will have you take off any metal jewelry that you may be wearing. You may have one or more IV tubes placed in your vein to give you medicine and liquid. Your heart and blood pressure will be watched by caregivers during your test. You will be taken to a room with the CT machine. The CT machine may be noisy.
- You will lie down on a movable table. The table will be moved inside the CT machine. Caregivers may give you dye through your IV. As the dye is given, you may feel warm, and the area where your IV is may hurt. During your test, you may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds. Follow your caregiver's directions during the cardiac CT. You will need to lay still during your test. The scan may take ten minutes or less.
After your test:
If you use a device such as a pacemaker or infusion pump, caregivers will check to see that it is working as it should. Caregivers will check your blood pressure and heartbeat after your cardiac CT. If dye was used, you may have blood tests to check your kidneys. Ask your caregiver when you may go home. Ask him when you will be told the results of your cardiac CT. Do not drive for three hours after having your cardiac CT.
Contact a caregiver if
- You cannot make it to your cardiac CT.
Seek Care Immediately ifCall 911 or an ambulance if you have any signs of a heart attack:
- Discomfort in the center of your chest that feels like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain, that lasts for more than a few minutes or keeps returning
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or one or both of your arms
- Feeling sick to your stomach
- Having trouble breathing
- A sudden cold sweat, particularly in combination with chest discomfort or trouble breathing
- Feeling very lightheaded or dizzy, particularly in combination with chest discomfort or trouble breathing
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.