Cardiac Imaging

Cardiac imaging is a specialized branch of radiology. It uses sophisticated technology to create detailed images of the heart and blood vessels that otherwise could not be seen without open surgery. There are several different types of cardiac imaging that help doctors assess heart functioning, screen for heart problems, and diagnose heart disorders. The blood vessels in the brain may also be imaged to evaluate stroke or other conditions.

Common cardiac imaging tests include:

Cardiac Computed Tomography (CT), Coronary Artery Scan, and CTA

Cardiac computed tomography (CT) or coronary artery scan creates cross-sectional images of the heart and its blood vessels to help doctors check for blockages or disease. A coronary artery scan may also be referred to as CT Angiography or CTA.

Computerized Axial Scanning

Computerized axial scanning takes images of the blood vessels in the brain. It is helpful for determining the extent of a stroke.

Electron-Beam Computed Tomography (EBCT)

Electron-beam computed tomography (EBCT) takes very fast images and is useful for assessing bypass grafts, heart lesions, muscle mass, heart chamber volume, and pressure. EBCT is used as a screening test to detect calcification. The results are used to gauge the risk of heart attack or the need for coronary bypass surgery or balloon angioplasty.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) or PET/CT Scan

Cardiac positron emission tomography (PET) uses radionuclide tracers to evaluate heart tissue functioning. It is especially useful for detecting the type of heart disease that reduces blood flow to the heart muscle. It is specific enough to identify injured, yet living heart muscle. PET can also be combined with CT imaging technology to provide a more accurate picture of what is going on inside the body.

Digital Cardiac Angiography (DCA), Digital Subtraction Angiography (DSA)

Digital cardiac angiography (DCA) and digital subtraction angiography (DSA) use a contrast dye to highlight images of the major blood vessels to the heart and brain. It is used to detect blockages.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates very detailed pictures of the heart. It is used to assess damage from a heart attack, defects, and disorders, including aneurysm and tumors. MRI of the brain evaluates damage caused by stroke.

Radionuclide Imaging or Radionuclide Angiography

Radionuclide imaging or radionuclide angiography use injected radioactive substances and imaging to show how well the heart structures work, and locate damage from a heart attack. Radionuclide angiography is used to show brain functioning and indicate areas of brain damage.

Single Photon Emission Controlled Tomography (SPECT)

Single photon emission controlled tomography (SPECT) uses injected radioactive tracers and imaging to create cross-sectional images of the heart. It is used for locating heart muscle blood flow problems (myocardial perfusion defects), heart disease, coronary artery disease, and the severity of heart abnormalities.


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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit