A brain computed tomography angiography (CTA) is a specialized neurologic CT scan, and it involves fast CT imaging while simultaneously injecting IV contrast into a vein in the arm. This procedure allows visualization of the specific vascular anatomy of the organs in the body. It can also be used to evaluate vessels or plan a surgery. Mostly it is used to identify a small aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation (abnormal communications between blood vessels) inside the brain.
- A patient can expect the following things during the brain CTA examination:
- The patient is asked to lie on the examination table.
- If contrast is used, an automatic injection pump connected intravenously will release the contrast material at a controlled rate.
- Although the movement of the table occurs slowly at first, it gains rapid momentum when the actual CTA is performed.
- The patient may be asked to hold his/her breath during the scanning.
- Any motion in the form of breathing or body movements can lead to artifacts on the images.
The entire CTA exam may be completed within a few seconds. However, the patient’s actual time in the room may be long. This delay can occur as the technologist takes his/her time to position the patient on the table, check or place an IV line, do preliminary imaging to verify the beginning and end points of the exam, and set up the scan and contrast injection settings based on the part of the body being imaged.
Benefits of brain CTA include the following:
- The need for surgery may be eliminated by angiography; however if surgery remains necessary, it can be performed with much accuracy because of brain CTA findings. As the CTA is able to detect the obstruction of blood vessels, it allows for potentially corrective therapy.
- The CTA may give precise anatomic detail than a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), particularly in cases of small blood vessels.
- The CTA is faster, noninvasive, and has lesser complications than catheter angiography, which involves placing a catheter (plastic tube), (usually at the groin) into the patients’ major blood vessels and injecting a contrast material along with probable sedation or general anesthesia.
- The CTA examination costs lesser than catheter angiography.No radiation remains in a patient's body after a CTA examination.
Risk factors for brain CTA
A small chance of cancer from excessive exposure to radiation History of allergy to X-ray contrast material Risk for kidney failure, as the contrast material could potentially further damage the kidney function in patients with pre-existing kidney disease.
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