What Is a Cardiac CT?
A cardiac CT exam takes high resolution images of the heart to find the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries. Physicians also use cardiac CT imaging to detect potential cardiac conditions. It typically takes 90 minutes from start to finish.
A cardiac CT uses contrast injected though an IV unless you have having cardiac CT for calcium scoring. Contrast helps us see the images more clearly. The benefits of using contrast typically outweigh any potential risk. We carefully asses your risk before giving you contrast.
How to Prepare for a Cardiac CTYou can log into Patient Gateway for more details about your specific appointment.
- When to Arrive - Please arrive 60 minutes before your appointment so we can properly prepare for your imaging. This exam may use nitroglycerin to open up your blood vessels so we can see any blockages. We apply a patch with nitroglycerin in it before your imaging. The patch takes about 45 minutes to work.
- Medication - Keep taking your medications as prescribed except for Levitra, Cialis, Stendra, Viagra, Revatio or similar medications. Stop taking these for three days before your appointment. They cannot be used with the nitroglycerin patch.
- Eating & Drinking - Do not eat solid food for two hours before your appointment. Drink plenty of clear liquids such as water, clear soup, or decaffeinated tea. Avoid caffeine on the day of your cardiac CT imaging.
- Diabetes - If you are diabetic, you can keep taking your medication on the day of the appointment. Drink extra fruit juices to make up for not eating solid food for two hours. The technologist will talk to you about possibly stopping your medication after your exam.
- Clothing - We will ask you to change into hospital attire so we can put cardiac leads on your chest to help get clearer picture of your heart. If you can, try to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that is easy to change out of.
- Valuables - We suggest you leave your valuables at home so you don’t have to worry about them. You can keep your things with you during your exam.
- Children - Children are not allowed in the exam room. If you need to bring kids, please bring someone to watch them in the waiting room.
What to Expect at a Cardiac CT Exam
Find out what happens when you come to Mass General Imaging for your cardiac CT exam. During COVID, we are taking unprecedented steps to keep our patients safe. We have adjusted our operations and physical space so you may notice some enhanced safety measures when you visit.
Use these patient resources to learn more about getting a cardiac CT at Mass General Imaging. You can contact us if you have any questions.
Division of Cardiovascular Imaging
The Division of Cardiovascular Imaging at Mass General offers a full range of diagnostic services for the heart and blood vessels. This division provides our cardiac imaging services, including cardiac CT.
- Division Chief, Cardiovascular Imaging, Department of Radiology
- Associate Professor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School