What is a cardiac CT Scan?


A cardiac CT scan is a noninvasive, painless test that evaluates the heart and surrounding blood vessels to identify any blockages/narrowing of the arteries and to detect any problems with the pumping function of the heart which may indicate possible heart disease. During the CT, a dye (also known as contrast) is administered through an IV during the scan. This dye allows us to follow the blood flow in your heart as it travels through blood vessels and the heart to help diagnoses a wide range of heart conditions.

Benefits of Dynamic 3D CT Imaging

Traditional CT scans can determine if you have heart disease based on how quickly blood is flowing through the arteries and veins, but it cannot diagnoses the cause of heart disease without additional testing, such as an echocardiograph.

At UChicago Medicine, our cardiac CT team uses a very advanced scanner that takes several high-quality, 3D images, at the lowest-possible radiation dose, to allow us to recreate a multidimensional image of your beating heart. The 3D scan offers the whole picture of the heart, and it allows us to manipulate the image to see every angle of the heart and exploring each functional detail.

Dynamic 3D CT technology allows us study both sides of the heart, measure how strong the heart is pumping, inspect how the heart valve perform, identify possible blockages in the heart and more. Being able to examine a 3D beating heart image for issues, such as coronary arty disease, aortic disorders and structural heart problems, prevents you from undergoing multiple tests to accurately diagnose your condition(s).

The 3D cardiac CT reconstruction above is from a UChicago Medicine patient with abnormal calcification of the pericardium. The white ring visible around the beating heart is an abnormality in the heart that prevents normal cardiac filling.

Fractional Flow Reserve CT Technology

Many hospitals use cardiac CT to identify blockages in the heart, but CT scans will not tell us if the blockage is severe enough to reduce the amount of blood flowing through the blockage without additional testing. UChicago Medicine uses fractional flow reserve (FFRCT) to analyze the blood flow through the blockages detected in a cardiac CT scan to get an accurate diagnosis. With FFRCT, we can determine the level of heart disease without an invasive heart catheterization, ultimately saving our patients from unnecessary procedures to diagnose coronary artery disease. Learn more about FFRCT.

When do you need a cardiac CT?

Our team of cardiac imaging experts determine which heart tests are appropriate for each patient. We work with you and other specialists to determine when cardiac CT is the right scan for you. Common reasons you might need a cardiac CT include:

  • Chest pain and/or suspected coronary artery disease: Cardiac CT angiography can be used as a noninvasive way to determine if chest pain is due to the blockages or narrowing of the coronary arteries.
  • Inconclusive stress test: If data gathered from a stress test does not provide a clear answer to your health concerns, we may recommend a cardiac CT to look for coronary artery disease or other heart problems.
  • Presence of other heart disease symptoms: Like the symptom of chest pain, if you exhibit other symptoms of heart disease, such as shortness of breath, neck, jaw, back or arm pain, you may benefit from a cardiac CT in order to evaluate your heart for possible heart disease.


With physicians skilled and experienced in diagnosing heart disease, UChicago Medicine is a referral center for a number of hospitals and physicians seeking expert care.

Cardiac CT at UChicago Medicine

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To speak to someone directly, please call 773-702-9461. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

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