Electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) is the reference standard for x-ray-based tomographic imaging of the heart because of its high temporal resolution, but it is available in only a few centers. Quantification of coronary calcium is the most widely recognized use of EBCT for cardiac imaging. This technique requires no contrast media and provides an accurate assessment of overall plaque burden in the coronary tree; however, it does not directly identify or localize coronary stenoses. Multislice spiral (helical) CT (MSCT) is a new technology that provides images of the beating heart in diagnostic quality under many circumstances and may facilitate the broader application of cardiac and coronary CT. Currently, for imaging of the heart, much more experience exists with EBCT than with MSCT. Contrast-enhanced CT coronary angiography (CTCA) can be done with EBCT or MSCT to obtain images of the major branches of the coronary tree and to define luminal narrowing. Studies at experienced centers performed with small numbers of patients show that sensitivity, specificity, and negative predictive value are good with CTCA in the assessment of obstructive coronary artery disease, but CTCA remains an investigational technique for these applications. Computed tomographic coronary angiography can be clinically useful for assessing coronary artery bypass graft patency and congenital coronary abnormalities.
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