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How a Vein Doctor Uses a CT Angiogram

One test a vein doctor uses to evaluate the condition of blood vessels is a computed tomography angiogram, or CT angiogram.  Understanding how a physician uses this exam can help reduce stress for patients scheduled for the procedure.

How This Technology Works

CT angiography combines CT scan technology with contrast media to visualize blood vessels and tissue, Johns Hopkins Medicine explains.  Patients receive contrast material via injection into an IV line in the hand or the arm.

The CT portion of the technology is a kind of X-ray paired with images that are cross-sections of the body created by a computer.  The contrast material utilized causes blood vessels and tissues to appear bright white so that physicians can analyze their structure.  One way often used to describe how CT technology works is getting a look at a loaf of bread by slicing it.

The Society for Vascular Surgery notes that a typical CT angiogram produces radiation similar to the amount generated by around 50 chest X-rays.  The procedure is a minimally invasive outpatient test that combines pictures from multiple angles to create a detailed image of blood vessels and tissue.

During this exam, the patient lies on a motorized table that slides through a CT scanner.  It is usually necessary to periodically hold one’s breath as the equipment takes pictures.  The product a physician evaluates is a series of 3D images.

An appointment normally takes less than an hour.  Under most circumstances, women who are pregnant are not candidates for this test.

What a CT Angiogram Tells a Vein Doctor

Physicians rely on CT angiograms to diagnose vascular disorders and to plan subsequent treatment.  According to the Radiological Society of North America, Inc., they order this exam to evaluate blood vessels found in the:

  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Heart
  • Brain
  • Pelvis
  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Neck
  • Abdomen, for liver and kidneys
  • Chest

This technology is helpful in diagnosing many conditions involving or related to blood vessels.  Among the most common are these:

  • Aneurysms
  • Injuries
  • Blockages, particularly from plaques or clots
  • Disorganized blood vessels
  • Congenital blood vessel abnormalities
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Kidney disease

The procedure is useful for checking the condition of blood vessels following surgery and in planning very intricate operations such as coronary bypasses.  Vascular surgeons use CT angiography to make repairs such as implanting or removing stents when blood vessels are diseased.  The exam is also helpful in detecting disease in vessels that serve the kidneys and in visualizing how blood flows in patients who need a kidney transplant.

Many patients with vascular issues are able to avoid surgery thanks to the results of a CT angiogram.  Findings sometimes help prevent a heart attack or a stroke.  Physicians consider the test less invasive than other procedures and rely on it for very detailed information.

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