Computed Tomography Angiography

Computed tomography angiography (CTA) is an X-ray that uses contrast materials to examine blood flow in blood vessels. Computed tomography (CT) uses a complex machine to take X-rays from many different views to produce detailed 2D images that can be combined by a computer to form 3D images.

CTA is most commonly used to study the:

  • Brain
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Legs or arms

What Does a CTA Do? 

A CTA helps identify diseased, narrowed, enlarged and blocked blood vessels and locate where internal bleeding may occur. Some specific uses include:

  • Detecting atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries
  • Detecting an aneurysm, a ballooning out of a section of a blood vessel
  • Examining arteries in the lungs to check for blockage of a blood vessel
  • Evaluating disease in kidney arteries

The CTA Procedure

You’ll lie down on a table. Pillows and straps may be used to keep you in a certain position. Your doctor will move the part of your body being examined inside the opening of the CT machine. Your doctor will give you a small amount of contrast material through an IV and begin the scan.

You must stay still during the scan. You’ll be asked to hold your breath for 10-25 seconds to ensure that the images are not blurred by any movement. It only takes seconds to record all the images needed.

The test takes about 20-60 minutes. Although the procedure is not painful, you may feel warm and flushed when your doctor injects the contrast material. Your results are usually ready within 24 hours, and your doctor will discuss the findings with you and any treatment options.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Allergic reactions to contrast material
  • Excess bleeding
  • Kidney damage

View Your Scan Results

See your imaging results and scans online using MyChart.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.