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Although coronary CTA exams are growing in use, coronary angiograms remain the "gold standard" for detecting coronary artery stenosis, which is a significant narrowing of an artery that could require catheter-based intervention (such as stenting) or surgery (such as bypassing) to treat the narrowed area.

However, coronary CTA has consistently shown the ability to rule out significant narrowing of the major coronary arteries.

This new technology also can noninvasively detect "soft plaque," or fatty matter, in the coronary artery walls that has not yet hardened but that may lead to future problems without lifestyle changes or medical treatment.

Coronary CTA is most useful to determine whether symptoms of chest pain may be caused by a coronary blockage, particularly in individuals that may be at risk, such as those with a family history of cardiac events, diabetes, high blood pressure, smokers, and/or those with elevated cholesterol.

As with CTA, PET involves a doughnut-like scanning device that takes the images.

With PET, the cardiologist and radiologist can examine biological functions, like blood flow or glucose metabolism of the heart. There is a debate among cardiologists over the appropriateness of PET/CTA for heart diagnosis; more research is needed.

Coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA) is a noninvasive heart imaging test currently undergoing rapid development and advancement.

High-resolution, 3-dimensional pictures of the moving heart and great vessels are produced during a coronary CTA to determine if either fatty or calcium deposits (plaques) have built up in the coronary arteries.

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The TBCT scan -- which takes about 15 minutes to perform -- analyzes three major areas of the body: the lungs, the heart, and the abdomen/pelvis.

The amount of coronary calcium has been recognized as a powerful independent predictor of future heart problems and is useful in making lifestyle changes and guiding preventive care to reduce their risk.

Your doctor uses the calcium-score screening heart scan to evaluate risk for future coronary artery disease.

Before the test, an iodine-containing contrast dye is injected into an IV in the patient's arm to improve the quality of the images.

A medication that slows or stabilizes the patient's heart rate may also be given through the IV to improve the imaging results.

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