(Ultrafast CT, Electron-Beam Computed Tomography, EBCT, Cine CT Scan)
What is an ultrafast computed tomography scan (CT scan)?
Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) is a diagnostic imaging procedure
that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce
cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and
vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of
the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are
more detailed than standard x-rays.
In standard x-rays, a beam of energy is aimed at the part of the body
being studied. A plate behind the body part captures the variations of
the energy beam after it passes through skin, bone, muscle, and other
tissue. While much information can be obtained from a regular x-ray, a
lot of detail about internal organs and other structures is not
In computed tomography, the x-ray beam moves in a circle around the
body. This allows many different views of the same organ or structure,
and provides much greater detail. The x-ray information is sent to a
computer which interprets the x-ray data and displays it in
2-dimensional (2D) form on a monitor.
[Illustration of the anatomy of the heart, view of the coronary
arteries]A new technology, called ultrafast CT scan, is now being used
to diagnose heart disease. Ultrafast CT, or electron-beam computed
tomography (EBCT) can take multiple images of the heart within the time
of a single heartbeat, thus providing much more detail about the heart's
function and structures, and also greatly decreasing the amount of time
required for a study. Ultrafast CT scans can detect very small amounts
of calcium within the heart and the coronary arteries. This calcium has
been shown to indicate that lesions that may eventually block off one or
more coronary arteries and cause chest pain, or even a heart attack, are
in the beginning stages of formation. Thus, ultrafast CT scanning may be
used by physicians as a means to diagnose early coronary artery disease
in certain people, especially in individuals who have no symptoms of the
Other related procedures that may be used to assess the heart include
resting and exercise electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), Holter monitor,
signal-averaged ECG, cardiac catheterization, chest x-ray, computed
tomography (CT scan) of the chest, echocardiography,
electrophysiological studies, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the
heart, myocardial perfusion scans, and radionuclide angiography. Please
see these procedures for additional information.
Reasons for the Procedure
Some reasons for which an ultrafast CT may be performed include, but are
not limited to, the following:
to assess the condition of the coronary arteries
to assess heart tissue damage after a heart attack (also called
myocardial infarction, or MI)
to assess the patency (openness) of coronary artery bypass
Ultrafast CT is used primarily for the diagnosis of coronary artery
disease, particularly in persons who have no symptoms of the disease but
who have significant risk factors for the disease. Ultrafast CT should
not be considered a substitute for cardiac catheterization. Computed
tomography measurement of coronary calcium is not considered relevant in
patients who have already had a heart attack or undergone coronary
bypass surgery or coronary angioplasty.
There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend an ultrafast
Risks of the Procedure
You may want to ask your physician about the amount of radiation used
during the CT procedure and the risks related to your particular
situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your past history of
radiation exposure, such as previous CT scans and other types of x-rays,
so that you can inform your physician. Risks associated with radiation
exposure may be related to the cumulative number of x-ray examinations
and/or treatments over a long period of time.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should
notify your physician. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to
There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition.
Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the
Before the Procedure
Your physician or the technician will explain the procedure to
you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you
might have about the procedure.
Generally, no prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation, is
required prior to an ultrafast CT.
Notify the technologist if you are pregnant or suspect you may
Notify the technologist if you have any body piercing on your
chest and/or abdomen.
Based upon your medical condition, your physician may request
other specific preparation.
During the Procedure
An ultrafast CT may be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of
your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition
and your physician's practices.
Generally, an ultrafast CT follows this process:
You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that
may interfere with the procedure.
If you are asked to remove clothing, you will be given a gown to
You will lie on a scan table that slides into a large, circular
opening of the scanning machine. Pillows and straps may be used
to prevent movement during the procedure.
The technologist will be in another room where the scanner
controls are located. However, you will be in constant sight of
the technologist through a window. Speakers inside the scanner
will enable the technologist to communicate with and hear you.
You will have a call button so that you can let the technologist
know if you have any problems during the procedure. The
technologist will be watching you at all times and will be in
The scanner will begin to rotate around you and low-dosage
x-rays will pass through the body for short amounts of time. You
will hear clicking sounds, which are normal.
The x-rays absorbed by the body's tissues will be detected by
the scanner and transmitted to the computer. The computer will
transform the information into an image to be interpreted by the
It will be important for you to remain very still during the
At intervals, you will be instructed to hold your breath, or to
not breathe, for a few seconds. You will then be told when you
can breathe. You should not have to hold your breath for longer
than a few seconds, so this should not be uncomfortable.
Once the procedure has been completed, you will be removed from
You may be asked to wait for a short time while the radiologist
reviews the scans to make sure they are clear and complete.
After the Procedure
You should be able to resume your normal diet and activities, unless
your physician instructs you differently.
Your physician may give you additional or alternate instructions after
the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was
not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or
replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician.
Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may
have regarding your condition.
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