How To Prepare for a Cardiac CT Scan

If your doctor instructed you to have a CT scan, then it is likely that he/she thinks that you have a problem with your heart or lungs.

A cardiac CT scan or CAT scan is one the many procedures involving a body scan, the only difference is that the focus here is your heart or lungs. It is not much different from a full body scan where the doctor performs a body scan to identify potential internal problems in all parts and organs, or an MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging that scans using magnetic fields and not radiation. Currently, aside from cardiac CT scan or Computed Tomography, cardiac positron emission tomography (PET) is also used as a method of checking a person’s heart.

Though intense preparation is not really required before undergoing a cardiac CT scan, here are some common preparations that your doctor may need you to do:

  • Months before the actual procedure, you have to inform your doctor if you are currently taking any medications for previous diagnosis, so he/she can either alter your schedule or instruct a change in medication altogether. For instance, for a patient with diabetes, taking metformin right after getting the CT dye may cause problems.
  • If you are pregnant, or if you believe you are pregnant, you should report this to your doctor. A CT Scan involves the use of radiation and this may adversely affect the development of your baby. In addition, you should also ask your doctor what you should expect during the scan. It is possible that you may need to be administered a beta-blocker to slow down your heart, and you don’t want to have a panic attack on the day of the scan when you find your heartbeat slowly decreasing.
  • The same is true if you have allergies to any form of medication such as iodine, or foods such as seafoods. This is because prior to the CT scan, you may be given a contrast dye to highlight veins or to ensure that tissues are seen more clearly seen against their surroundings.
  • You also need to inform your doctor of your fears so he/she may explain the process to you in detail. Though some fears are rooted in the amount of radiation that may enter the body, some hospitals are in the practice of using only the smallest amount of radiation that is enough for an effective diagnosis.
  • A few hours before the scan, you have to stop ingesting food or drinking caffeinated drinks. The normal procedure is that you have to fast four hours prior to having a cardiac CT scan. Within that period, water is the only thing that you can take.
  • Before the CT Scan, you need to ensure that you are well-relaxed. Moving around while inside the machine may cause the technician to fail to see important details about your body, or may increase the time spent for the scan. You may be asked to come to the hospital or clinic at least an hour prior to the scan so your heart rate can be checked and proper beta blockers be administered beforehand if needed.

With the proper orientation and sufficient preparation, a cardiac CT scan may not take longer than a few minutes. This will ensure that your doctor is able to get the best possible results for an efficient and effective diagnosis.


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