Cardiac CT Diagnostics

Picture your heart

The physicians at Piedmont Heart have extensive diagnostic tools to help determine the health of your heart, ranging from the simple stethoscope to the most sophisticated technology. One of the newest tools, Piedmont's LightSpeed® VCT system, allows physicians to "take a picture" of your heart, giving them detailed information about its form and function. Using the Lightspeed VCT, Piedmont specialists can perform two key cardiac diagnostic exams, Coronary Calcium Scoring and Coronary CT Angiography.

What is a CT exam?

CT examCT is an abbreviation for Computed Tomography, which is a non-invasive diagnostic medical exam that combines X-rays and sophisticated computers to view the inside of the body. One advantage of CT is its ability to rapidly acquire two-dimensional pictures of your anatomy. These 2-D images can be presented as 3-D images for in-depth clinical evaluation using a computer.

How is a regular CT scan different from the 64-slice?

Piedmont's LightSpeed® VCT 64-slice computed tomography scanner produces images of unprecedented detail quickly and with lower radiation dosage for patients. For example, the 64-slice scanner can gather a high-resolution image of the brain, lungs or heart in about five seconds.

Coronary Calcium Scoring

Coronary Calcium Scoring

The 64-slice CT scanner is an excellent tool for diagnosing coronary disease non-invasively. For example, a CT exam can be a simple, safe and quick way to determine the amount of calcium in your coronary arteries, a condition often called hardening of the arteries. As plaque builds up, arteries narrow, and the risk of a sudden heart attack can increase. A complete cardiac assessment using the LightSpeed® VCT system takes only about 15 minutes. Scores range from zero (low risk) to 1,000 and above (high risk). Scores indicate the extent of calcification in the heart's coronary arteries, which indicates the presence of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Determining the extent of cardiac risk requires your physician to interpret your calcium score in combination with other tests and risk factors.

Coronary CT Angiography

The Coronary CTA is another non-invasive test to determine whether fatty or calcium deposits have built up in the arteries that supply blood to your heart. The advantage of such a test is that it provides the physician with true visualization of the heart and the plaque blockages in the blood vessels. The CTA also provides excellent images of heart function, previous coronary bypass grafts, cardiac shunts and other information that allows the physician to assess your heart's health.

Are IVs or shots involved?

For the Coronary CTA exam, a solution called "contrast" will be administered with an IV to help visualize the coronary arteries. Before the exam, blood tests will be required to ensure proper kidney function. It also is very important to let your physician know beforehand if you've ever had an allergic reaction to contrast or if you have any other allergies. In addition, the technologist will connect you to an EKG machine to monitor your heart. It is important to have a complete cardiac risk assessment done prior to considering other diagnostic exams, such as the Coronary CTA. 

How safe are CT examinations?

CT is a safe and effective diagnostic procedure. In fact, nearly 50 million CT exams are performed in the U.S. every year. Like many other imaging technologies, CT has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Additionally, the GE LightSpeed® VCT Scanner at Piedmont has been designed with dose-reduction features that minimize your exposure to radiation.

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