by Scholten A


Computed tomography angiography (CTA) is an x-ray of blood vessels. A material called contrast is used with the test. It will make the blood vessels easier to see.

CTA is most commonly used to study blood vessels of the:

  • Brain
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Legs or arms
Blood Vessel in Brain
Blood Flow Brain
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Reasons for Test

This test may be done to:

  • Find blood vessels that are narrowed, enlarged, or blocked
  • Look for blood leaking from the blood vessels
Heart Attack
Heart Attack
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Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

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

What to Expect

Prior to Test

The doctor may meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before the test, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before

Description of Test

An IV is placed in a vein. You will lie down on a narrow table. The body area to be studied is moved inside the CT machine. You will need to stay still during the test. Contrast material is injected. As the scanner takes pictures, there is humming and clicking. The technician will ask you to hold your breath at certain times. This will help get a clear picture.

After Test

You may be told to drink extra fluid. This will flush the contrast from your body.

How Long Will It Take?

20 to 60 minutes

Will It Hurt?

The test normally should not hurt. Some may find it uncomfortable to stay still during the scan. You may feel warm and flushed when contrast material is injected.


The CT images will be sent to a doctor who looks at images. Your doctor will receive the results and discuss them with you.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swollen or itchy eyes
  • Problems breathing

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Heart Association 

Texas Heart Institute 


Health Canada 

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada 


Coronary artery disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2021.

Coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA). Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2021.

Ozkok S, Ozkok A. Contrast-induced acute kidney injury: A review of practical points. World J Nephrol. 2017;6(3):86-99.

Prevention of contrast induced complications. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2021.

What is computed tomography angiography? Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
  • Review Date: 07/2021
  • Update Date: 08/31/2021