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CT (Computerised Tomography) Angiogram is a diagnostic exam, which combines a CT scan with a special dye injection to obtain a clear view of the blood vessels and tissues in any part of the body. This is a non-invasive procedure that is like an X-ray which provides cross-sectional images of the body by using a computer.

The procedure takes very less time and has a fast recovery rate. This test can be used to diagnose multiple problems and also treat a few conditions. It uses a special dye, which is injected into the arm or the hand of the patient through an intravenous (IV) line. This contrast material helps to increase the visibility of the blood vessels concerned.

Need for a CT Angiogram

A person might need this test when there is an issue, which affects the blood vessels of the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, or any other part of the body. The doctor uses this test to understand a medical condition in detail or determine the best treatment plan. Some common reasons for which a CT angiogram may be required, include:

  • To detect an aneurysm in which a blood vessel becomes too large and has a potential risk of rupture.
  • To detect blood vessels which have become narrow because of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the fatty material that leads to the formation of plaques in the arteries.
  • To locate abnormal blood vessel in the brain.
  • To spot blood vessels those have been injured.
  • To identify blood clots that may have developed in the leg veins and then consequently shifted to the lungs.
  • To assess a tumour supported by blood vessels.

The results of a CT angiogram can help prevent chances of a stroke or a heart attack. This diagnostic exam also helps the doctor to plan the treatment for cases such as cancer or prepare for a kidney transplant. In some specific cases, the doctor may advise this test for any other specific reason.

Preparation for CT Angiogram

The patient is required to change into a gown and asked to remove all jewellery and piercings. The patient must also inform the doctor about any existing allergies to contrast media, special dyes, etc. If the procedure does not require a contrast media, the patient can eat, drink and take all prescribed medications before the exam. However, if the exam requires a contrast medium, the patient is advised not to eat or drink anything for at least 3 hours before the exam. The patient is advised to drink clear liquids. For specific cases, the doctor may prescribe certain specific precautions.

The patient is placed on an examination table and an IV line is placed in the arm or the hand. Then the contrast medium will be injected, which might make the patient feel slightly uncomfortable. Then the patient is placed under the scanner, which is painless. The patient may be asked to hold breath during the scan.

The duration of the scan is 20 minutes to one hour. The technician doing the scan checks the images to ensure they can provide an accurate analysis of the patient’s condition.

After the test is completed, the patient’s IV line is removed. In most cases, the patient is advised to go home the same day and resume normal activities at home. However, the patient may be given additional instructions if there are any complications post the procedure.

Some common uses of CT Angiogram

A CT angiogram can be used to examine the blood vessels and organs supported by these blood vessels. These include:

  • Brain
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Heart
  • Pelvis
  • Arms and hands
  • Legs and Feet
  • Abdomen
  • Pelvis

Physicians can also advise a CT Angiogram to confirm a diagnosis of the below diseases and conditions:

  • Aneurysms
  • Blockages
  • Blood clots
  • Injury
  • Tumours
  • Birth-related heart problems
  • Vessel rupture or tear
  • A problem in the organisation of blood vessels

Risks of a CT Angiogram

A CT angiogram is relatively very safe. However, it still has certain risks, such as below:

  • Frequent exposure to radiation can cause cancer. However, the radiation used in a CT angiogram is comparatively less, hence, the chances are rare.
  • Allergic reactions to the contrast material used in the procedure. The patient must inform the doctor about any medical history regarding allergies. The healthcare provider can recommend certain medications to minimise the risk of a reaction.
  • Risk of leakage of contrast material from the IV line can irritate the skin of the patient and also the blood vessels and nerves under the skin layer.
  • The contrast material used to get the clear image of the blood vessels, can in some rare cases damage the kidneys. It is not recommended for a patient that has diabetes or kidney disease.

A breastfeeding mother will have to wait for 24-hours after the procedure to be able to feed the child, without passing on any risks. Moreover, women who are pregnant or have a chance of pregnancy should notify the healthcare professional or the radiology technician.

A CT Angiogram can have other potential risks but depends on the individual medical condition of the patient.

Overall, a CT angiogram is a safe procedure. However, the suitability and the need for the technique for a particular patient can only be determined by the physician.

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