Nuclear Stress Testing

What is Nuclear Stress Testing?

A nuclear stress test measures the blood flow to your heart at rest and while your heart is working harder as a result of exercise or medication . The test provides images that can show areas of low blood flow through the heart and damaged heart muscle.

Exercise Nuclear Stress Test

A Nuclear Exercise Stress Test, is designed to evaluate the condition of your coronary arteries.  Coronary arteries supply the heart with blood.  Using a special type of imaging camera, a small amount of radioactive tracer is injected into your blood before and after a stress test and pictures are taken of your heart muscle.  These pictures help the doctor determine whether there are any major blockages in your arteries.  They can also see if there has been damage to the heart muscle . 

 Pharmacologic Nuclear Stress Test

Nuclear Pharmacologic Stress Test, (Lexiscan)  is also designed to evaluate the condition of your coronary arteries. . Coronary arteries supply the heart with blood.  Using a special type of imaging camera a small amount of radioactive tracer is injected into your blood before and after an injection of Lexiscan and pictures are taken of your heart.  These pictures help the doctor determine whether there are any major blockages in your arteries.  Lexiscan works by dilating the blood vessels in your body.

A Pharmacologic nuclear stress test is recommended for patients who may not be able to walk to an appropriate level of exercise on a treadmill.  This may be due to arthritis, injury, poor conditioning or use of devices like a pacemaker or defibrillator.

Why do I need a Nuclear Stress Test?

Your doctor may order a nuclear stress test for a variety of reasons, including:

  • if they suspect your heart isn’t getting enough blood flow when it’s understress — for example, when you exercise
  • if you have chest pain or worsening angina
  • if you’ve had a previous heart attack
  • to check how well medications are working
  • to determine whether a procedure or surgery was successful
  • Cardiac Clearance for non cardiac surgery

 What can I expect during the nuclear stress test?

  • A technician will start an intravenous line in your hand or arm.  You will receive an injection of an isotope and be asked to sit in the waiting room for a period of time, after which the first

    set of pictures will be taken of your heart. 

  • You will then be prepared by a cardiac technician, who, along with the cardiac nurse and nuclear medicine technologist will perform your stress test.

  • Nuclear Exercise Stress Test:  You will walk on a treadmill until you reach a predetermined heart rate,  if you are too tired to continue, , if you experience chest pain or a change in your bblood pressure or electrocardiogram occur that worries the provider administering the test. At that time you will be given a second injection of an isotope.  When this portion of the stress test is complete, you will be again asked to sit in the waiting room for a period of time.

  • Pharmacologic Nuclear Stress Test:   For patients that are unable to perform physical exercise to the needed levels of exertion, your doctor will use a drug called Lexiscan.  This drug simulates the effect of exercise by expanding the coronary arteries, which increases blood flow to the heart.  Once the Lexiscan takes effect, you will be given an injection of another isotope and asked to sit in the waiting room for a period of time (approximately 1 hour).

A second set of pictures will then be taken of your heart, after which the test is complete and you can resume normal activity (no vigorous exercise).

Note:  For all nuclear testing, inform the technologist if:

  • There is a possibility that you are pregnant
  •  You are flying within 24 hours of your scheduled test

For Testing Preparation, see patient instructions.  

 

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