Cardiac CT angiography is an imaging test that looks at the heart and its surrounding blood vessels. This painless, noninvasive test shows blockages and narrowing of the arteries that increase heart attack risk.

CT angiography helps doctors treat heart disease, determine if current treatments are effective and, in some cases, may prevent the need for more invasive tests. Data gathered from the CT exam helps cardiologists determine if a patient may need cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, and if other medicines or lifestyle changes are recommended to reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke.

At the University of Chicago Medicine, our cardiologists use the new GE Revolution CT scanner for all heart CT scans. This powerful imaging technology provides sharp, 3D images of the heart at the lowest-possible radiation dose. The machine can cover the entire heart in one spin and can provide detailed images even when the heart is beating rapidly or irregularly.

A dye called a contrast agent is typically given through an IV during the scan. This dye allows physicians to follow blood flow as it travels through blood vessels and the heart.

Cardiac CT angiography is helpful in assessing a wide range of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease, diseases of the aorta and other structural heart problems. It is particularly helpful in patients who have had an inconclusive stress test, but it may also be used to help surgeons, interventional cardiologists and electrophysiologists to plan and perform complex heart procedures such as TAVR and MitraClip.

Our team of cardiac imaging experts is highly skilled at determining which heart tests are appropriate for each patient. Some instances when cardiac CT may be recommended include the following:

  • 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 is inconclusive, physicians may recommend a cardiac CT to look for coronary artery disease or other problems.
  • Presence of other heart disease symptoms: Like the symptom of chest pain, people who exhibit other symptoms of heart disease, such as shortness of breath, neck, jaw, back or arm pain may be candidates for CT angiography.