CT Angiography

Angiography or arteriography is a time-tested way to study the health of veins and arteries. Though often associated with the heart, it can be used to determine whether blood vessels throughout the body are blocked, damaged or malformed.

Traditional angiography, also known as X-ray or catheter angiography, is a minimally invasive procedure during which a small tube is threaded through the body to the area being studied. The tube is used to inject a dye that highlights blood vessels and makes them easier to see on X-ray images.

With computed tomography angiography (CTA), no tube is necessary and the dye can be placed with a simple injection in the arm. CTA uses a computed tomography (CT) scanner (sometimes called a CAT scan) to create images of blood vessels. Because there is no need to thread a catheter through the body, a CTA is usually faster and causes less discomfort than traditional angiography. A CT scanner uses a thin X-ray beam and advanced computer analysis to create highly detailed images.

While traditional angiography must be used for various treatment options (such as the placement of stents or angioplasty), angiography to diagnose conditions is increasingly being done using noninvasive CT angiography.

CT angiograms are performed for the following reasons:

  • To detect aneurysms (places where a blood vessel bulges or balloons out)
  • To determine whether any blood vessels are torn
  • To examine the buildup of plaque or other blockages in blood vessels
  • To determine the degree of artery disease, particularly of the blood vessels around the heart
  • To investigate problems in the brain, such as stroke or cerebral bleeding
  • To identify blood-flow problems, such as circulatory problems in the legs
  • To examine any malformations of the blood vessels
  • To evaluate coronary veins before placement of a pacemaker
  • To check on the effectiveness of an earlier angioplasty or stent procedure
  • To evaluate the results of a bypass surgery
  • Angiograms are also sometimes used by surgeons to plan an operation or to choose the best surgical procedure

Above left: CT angiography image of the head and neck showing the major arteries. Above right: CT angiography image of an anterior communicating artery aneurysm in the brain (arrow). An aneurysm is a bulge in the artery wall which can, in certain circumstances, rupture.

The S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center provides a full range of advanced imaging, both radiology and cardiology, as well as interventional radiology and interventional tumor (oncology) treatments to the greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, Encino, Mid-Cities, Sherman Oaks, Silver Lake, Studio City, Toluca Lake and West Hollywood.