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What is Cardiac CT?

Cardiac computed tomography (CT) is a scan that takes detailed images of the heart and heart arteries using 3-dimensional X-ray technology.  The scan generates a still picture of the heart that can be looked at in any orientation – very much like a precise 3-dimensional model that can be rotated and cut in every possible way.  Doctors use cardiac CT to evaluate for abnormalities in heart structures and heart arteries (also called “coronary arteries”).

There are two major types of Cardiac CT:

Cardiac CT angiogram: This scan requires placement of an intravenous catheter followed by injection of contrast dye (a liquid that lights up the inside of heart structures and heart arteries) to fully evaluate the inside and outside of the heart and coronary arteries.  Cardiac CT angiogram is most often performed in people with chest pain or breathlessness to look for coronary artery disease, or to measure certain heart structures in preparation for a procedure.  A well done cardiac CT is 95% or better in detecting significant coronary artery disease.

Cardiac CT showing a normal right coronary artery filled with contrast dye.


Coronary calcium CT: This scan looks for calcium in the heart arteries and does not require an intravenous (IV) catheter or contrast dye.  Amount of calcium is scored and used as a marker of coronary artery disease.  Coronary calcium CT is most often performed in people without symptoms to help estimate future risk of heart attack.

Noncontrast coronary calcium CT showing coronary artery calcium.


We perform both types of cardiac CT at Oklahoma Heart Institute.