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Cardiac Computerized Axial Tomography

What you should know

A cardiac computerized axial tomography (cardiac CT) is a test that uses x-rays and a computer to take pictures of your heart. The CT machine is shaped like a large ring and has a table that goes through it.

Care Agreement

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.


A cardiac CT may not show certain heart problems, or may show a problem that is not really there. If you use a medical device such as a pacemaker, it may not work during or after your CT scan. Your kidneys may be damaged by the contrast dye, especially if you have diabetes or kidney disease. You may have an allergic reaction to the dye. If you do not have a cardiac CT, you may not find the source of your symptoms. Your signs and symptoms may get worse.

Getting Ready

Before your test:

  • Write down the date, time, and location of your test.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • You may be given contrast dye to help caregivers see the parts of your heart better in the pictures. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Tell your caregiver if you are afraid of small spaces. He may offer you medicine to help you relax.
  • You may need to have blood drawn. Talk to your caregiver about these or other tests 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 your heartbeat. This will help the CT machine take clearer pictures of your heart.

The day of your test:

  • Do not eat or drink anything that has caffeine in it for at least 6 hours before your test. This includes coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and some sports drinks and bars.
  • Do not eat any food for at least 3 hours before your test. Drink only liquids that do not have caffeine, such as water.
  • 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.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.


What will happen:

You will lie on a table. Caregivers may give you contrast dye through your IV. As the dye is given, you may feel warm. The table will be moved inside the CT machine. During your test, you may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds. The cardiac CT usually takes 10 minutes or less. You will need to lie still during the test.

After your test:

Caregivers will monitor you closely for any problems. Caregivers will check any medical devices, such as a pacemaker, to see that it is working properly. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. When your caregiver sees that you are okay, you will be allowed to go home.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your test.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • Your heart problems get worse.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.