What Can A Chest CT Scan Show A Doctor About Heart Problems
If you are experiencing symptoms of heart disease, your doctor might recommend you get a chest CT scan. A CT (computed tomography) scan is a very common procedure that is the preferred method of diagnosing heart disease. Just because your doctor has referred you for a chest CT does not mean anything is wrong – all it means is that your doctor wants some more information to treat you best.
These are the following symptoms* that could make your doctor recommend a chest CT:
- Chest pain
- Tightness in your chest
- Shortness of breath
- Heartbeat changes (slow, racing, irregular, etc.)
- Pain in the neck, jaw, upper back, or belly area
- Swelling in legs
- Numbness in legs
*If you have one of these symptoms, it does not mean you have heart disease.
Talk to your doctor about your medical history in order to understand if you are predisposed to heart disease. This may be a good reason to discuss the possibility of getting a preventative heart CT scan. If you are over the age of 50, your doctor might recommend a chest CT scan just to check if anything is amiss. If you are experiencing any of the previous symptoms, a CT screening might be the right choice for you.
Getting a chest CT scan can be expensive, but it is worth it when it comes to your health and safety. At South Jersey Radiology, we have lower costs than hospitals and can prioritize you over profits. A CT scan is the best scan for diagnosing heart disease, but it is not perfect and can sometimes miss certain cancers, like lung cancer. If your doctor is checking you for cancer, they might recommend an MRI, since that can detect more cancers.
How Does A Chest CT Scan Differ From Other Diagnostic Imaging Tests?
There are plenty of tests that help doctors diagnose heart disease: cholesterol tests, blood sugar, blood pressure tests, coronary-artery calcium tests, stress tests, and others. But a chest CT scan is the best scan for heart problems. Your doctor will likely recommend a CT scan over an MRI since a CT is faster and often less expensive than an MRI, and can also detect heart disease accurately. A chest CT shows your lungs, heart, esophagus, and other organs related to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Your doctor might recommend an echocardiogram over a chest CT if they have a better idea of what heart disease they are looking for since an echocardiogram is a more specific scan. In the same way, a CT angiogram is a scan that focuses on arteries in and around the heart. Your doctor might opt for this scan if they want a detailed look at your heart specifically.
A chest CT scan can diagnose any of the following issues:
- Heart and lung problems
- Blocked arteries
- Congestive heart failure
- Lung cancer
- Pulmonary embolism
- Heart inflammation
- Damage to breathing passages
- Injury to the heart and major blood vessels
- Damage to lymph nodes
- Damage to esophagus
- Muscle and bone disorders
- Bone tumors and fractures
- Blood clots
- Heart disease
- Internal bleeding
*Getting a chest CT does not mean you have one of these issues – all it means is that your doctor wants more information to get you the treatment you need.
How Do I Prepare For A Chest CT Scan?
Preparing for a chest CT is simple. Talk to your doctor about specific recommendations for when to start fasting before your appointment, but try to stick with a diet of clear liquids on the day of your scan. This will help with the clarity of your results. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes earlier than your scheduled appointment time so you have time to ask questions or change into a hospital gown. Try not to wear any creams, cosmetics, or deodorant on the day of your scan as these can mess with the clarity and accuracy of your results. Getting a medical scan can be nerve-wracking. But try not to worry too much. Talk about your concerns with your doctor and have peace of mind that they want the best for you and have determined that a CT scan is the best option.
Your CT scan appointment will probably only take 30 minutes. You will lie down on a metal bed and the CT machine will move around your chest. You will need to lie as still as possible. If you are getting a chest CT with contrast, you may have to drink the contrast solution before your scan starts or have it injected. Contrast dye helps your doctor have more variation between organs when looking at your results. Contrast can help increase the clarity of your scans. Getting a chest CT is not painful at all. You simply need to lie still for a short while. Unlike an MRI, a CT machine is open, so you will never be enclosed inside anything. CT machines are designed to ensure that you will not experience any claustrophobia during your scan.
It is normal to be worried about your CT scan results. If you receive abnormal results, talk to your doctor about your concerns. No medical scan is perfect, but a chest CT is regarded as more accurate than alternatives. There is a chance that a chest CT might miss some heart problems or even offer false positives. Your chest CT results will be sent to your doctor within 24 hours. Your doctor will reach out to you to schedule a follow-up appointment to create a treatment plan. Try not to worry too much about your results. If your radiologist sees something concerning in your scans, they will get you emergency help right away.
You can test yourself for heart disease by monitoring your heart rate, your blood pressure, and staying aware of whether you develop any of the following symptoms: tightness in your chest, shortness of breath, etc. If you are worried about having a heart blockage, any of those previous symptoms, along with shoulder or arm pain, sweating, nausea, neck or jaw pain, or fatigue. There are a lot of medical tests that can help catch heart disease early – tell your doctor about your family history of heart disease, as this can play a role in whether or not you develop similar issues.
Heart disease is very common. We want you to be as well-equipped as possible to catch it early and defeat it. At South Jersey Radiology, you and your comfort are our top priorities. Call us today to schedule an appointment at any of our following locations:
- Greentree Office – Marlton, NJ
- Haddonfield Office – Haddonfield, NJ
- Turnersville Office – Turnersville, NJ
- Voorhees Office – Voorhees Township, NJ
- Route 73 Office – Voorhees Township, NJ
- Washington Township Office – Sewell, NJ
- West Deptford Office – West Deptford, NJ
Learn more about the board-certified, sub-specialized radiologists who read and interpret studies at SJRA, here.