What Is a CTA Scan: A Deep Dive into Computed Tomography Angiography

CTA scans are becoming increasingly popular for the detection of heart attacks, issues with blood vessels, plaque buildup, and other blood-related conditions. They are non-invasive and relatively painless, making them a preferred choice for many patients.

So, what is a CTA scan? Simply put, CTA stands for computed tomography angiography. If you are considering taking this test, here’s what you need to know.

Key Points

  • When Is CTA Used?
  • What Is a Coronary CTA?
  • How Is CTA Performed?
  • Benefits and Disadvantages of CTA
  • How to Prepare for a CTA Scan
  • How Much Does a CTA Scan Cost?
  • How Long Does a CT Angiogram Take?
  • Key Takeaways

What Is a Coronary CTA?


A coronary computed tomography angiography, also known as CCTA, is a type of imaging test that uses special x-ray equipment to produce detailed pictures of your heart and the blood vessels that supply it.

This information can help your doctor determine if you have any narrowing of plaque buildup or blockages in your coronary arteries, which could put you at risk for a heart attack. A CCTA is usually performed with contrast so that doctors can see the images more clearly.

If your doctor sees any suspicious areas on the CCTA, they may recommend further testing to confirm the diagnosis.

When Is CTA Used?


Generally, the CTA procedure is best for individuals that show symptoms of coronary artery disease or have unknown findings. This way, CTA can assess blood flow and identify blockages, heart attacks, or abnormal growths.

How Is CTA Performed?


CTA is a non-intrusive technique that uses a high-speed CT scanner and iodine dye injected into the body through an IV for contrast.

The CT angiography procedure with contrast helps highlight the arteries and veins, making them visible on the scans. The CT images are then reconstructed to create a 3D image of the vascular system. Some patients reported feeling warm when contrast was injected.

Benefits and Disadvantages of CTA


CTA scans are relatively non-invasive, painless, and accurate. Not to mention, patients don’t need any bed rest after the CTA. However, CT angiography comes with a set of side effects and disadvantages.

First, CTA scans can be uncomfortable for patients who are claustrophobic or have difficulty lying still for long periods of time. Furthermore, patients are exposed to high levels of ionizing radiation, which can increase cancer risk.

How to Prepare for a CTA Scan?


For most people, the CTA test is safe and easy to tolerate. But it’s important to know what you can do to ensure everything goes smoothly.

First, you’ll need to fast for three hours before the test—this means no food or drink, including water. All patients can take the prescribed medication as usual. Finally, make sure to wear loose-fitting clothing to the test, as you will need to remove all clothing and jewelry before the scan.

How Much Does a CTA Scan Cost?


The cost of a CTA scan can vary depending on the facility where the test is performed and insurance coverage. On average, a CTA radiology can cost anywhere from $500 to over $1,000.

Medicare and most private insurance plans will cover at least part of the cost of this procedure. Patients who are uninsured or have high deductibles may expect to cover the full cost of their CTA scan. It’s important to check with your insurance provider beforehand to estimate the cost of this procedure. 

How Long Does a CT Angiogram Take?


A CT angiogram is usually done as an outpatient procedure, which means you can go home the same day. The entire procedure usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes but could take up to 2 hours.

The actual imaging part of the test, during which the pictures are taken, only takes a few minutes. However, you will need to wait for the dye to be injected into your body and then circulate through your arteries before the images can be taken. For this reason, the entire procedure can extend to over an hour.

What Is a CTA Scan: Key Takeaways


  • A CTA scan is a medical imaging procedure that uses special x-ray equipment to create detailed pictures of the blood vessels in your body. 
  • The images produced can help doctors diagnose and treat a variety of conditions, including blockages and other abnormalities.
  • CTA is performed using a high-speed CT scanner and contrast dye, which is injected into the bloodstream. The contrast dye helps make the blood vessels visible on the scans.
  • The procedure is usually done as an outpatient procedure and takes about 30 minutes. However, the entire process, from start to finish, can take up to an hour or more.