What is a Nuclear Stress Test?
A Nuclear Stress Test is similar to an Exercise Treadmill Test, in fact the exercise portion is identical. The difference is a radioisotope is used to make a blood flow image of the heart. The blood flow images at rest and after exercise are compared by the cardiologist and blood flow limitations from a narrowed blood vessel can be detected. Heart damage from a previous heart attack can also be determined.
Why is a Nuclear Stress Test ordered?
Like the exercise test a nuclear stress test is ordered to detect coronary artery disease. The advantage of the nuclear test over a regular exercise test is of added accuracy, especially when the baseline electrocardiogram is abnormal. It also may be ordered to evaluate whether a coronary stent or coronary artery bypass graft is functioning well and for preoperative risk assessment.
What can I expect the day of my test?
- No food for four hours prior to the test
- An intravenous catheter (a small tube) will be placed in a vein on your arm
- The radioisotope will injected at rest
- 30 to 45 minutes later a scan will be done of your heart (most often this will be done with you lying on your back with arms over your head under a detection camera, occasionally it is done sitting in a special chair), the scan lasts 15 to 30 minutes.
- Following the resting scan an Exercise Treadmill Test is performed.
- At peak exercise the radioisotope is again injected
- 15 to 60 minutes later the scan is again performed, you may be asked to eat during this time
- Expect to be at the testing location for 3 hours