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What is a 64 Slice CT Scan?

By Toni Henthorn
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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A 64 slice computed tomography (CT) scan is a radiological test used to assess the health of the heart in patients who have chest pain or shortness of breath. This rapid, noninvasive procedure allows early diagnosis and intervention for heart patients. Similar to a standard CT scan, the 64 slice CT scan produces real-time cross-sectional images detailing the cardiac anatomy and blood flow.

Unlike with a standard angiogram, the ultra-high resolution slices of the 64 slice CT scan allows physicians to non-invasively assess the patency of cardiac blood vessels and the adequacy of blood flow or perfusion into the heart. The cardiac scan also provides several other useful kinds of information. It offers an anatomical analysis, which is useful for detecting congenital anomalies. It gives a functional assessment, which is helpful in evaluating the pumping ability of the heart. It creates a calcium score, which gives an indication of buildup in the arteries that may lead to a heart attack.

A 64 slice CT scan has several potential drawbacks that must be weighed against its benefits. The device exposes the patient to ionizing radiation and can cause a reaction to the contrast agent. The procedure also can be expensive — costs range from $750 to $1500.

Coronary arteries bring blood to the heart, and inadequate blood flow leads to a myocardial infarction or heart attack. Cardiologists order angiograms to establish the presence of dangerous constriction of the arteries by blood clots, cholesterol plaques, or calcium. For the 64 slice CT scan, the contrast dye, which enhances visualization of the blood vessels, is administered through an intravenous drip peripherally instead of being injected directly at the heart through a long catheter. In comparison to a standard catheter angiogram, this procedure has a lower risk of infection, trauma to blood vessels, inadvertent embolization of blood clots into the circulation, and perforation.

Although scan durations vary, the procedure generally takes only seconds. Patients usually wear hospital gowns during the test to prevent obstruction of the X-rays by clips, buttons, or snaps on clothing. Upon initiation of the 64 slice CT scan, the table moves through a series of scanning positions. A doughnut-shaped portal or gantry, which accommodates the X-ray generating tube, surrounds the patient during the examination and hums slightly as the X-ray tube rotates inside it. During scanning, the patient must lie very still and hold his breath when instructed by the technician.

A 64 slice CT scan uses ionizing radiation to generate multiple images of a moving heart. The process incorporates a series of X-ray images captured from many directions around the body, merging them to create a three-dimensional image. Exposure to radiation from these scans is relatively low, but any radiation increases the risk for cancer. For this reason, the cardiac CT scan is reserved for those patients who exhibit signs of heart disease and is not used for routine preventative scans.

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