Nuclear Stress test

A nuclear stress test measures blood flow to your heart muscle both at rest and during stress. It’s performed similarly to a routine exercise stress test, but provides images that can show areas of low blood flow through the heart and areas of damaged heart muscle.

What you can expect during a nuclear stress test

Prior to the test You will be asked to: (Click here for Instructions)

What to expect when you arrive for your appointment:  When you arrive the technician will apply electrodes to your chest and start an IV line; the technician will administer a nuclear isotope. You will be asked to return to the waiting room for a period of 30-45 minutes. At that time you will be told to drink some of the clear caffeine free carbonated beverage ( example, Sprite, 7UP, Gingerale, Tonic/seltzer water ) that you were told to bring with you. Doing this will help us get better images of your heart. Once the isotope has had time to circulate through your heart we will start the first part of your nuclear stress test, which involves taking pictures of your heart at rest while you are sitting in an upright chair-like position for approximately 4-6 minutes. You will then be told to go back out to the waiting room and wait for a brief period. Looking at these images, your cardiologist will be able to examine the flow of blood through your heart, and detect any areas of inadequate blood flow or muscle damage.

If you are able to exercise, you’ll have an exercise treadmill test. During the exercise test, you will first walk slowly on a treadmill. The speed and incline of the treadmill will increase as the test continues – either until you reach a target heart rate and blood pressure level, become unable to continue due to shortness of breath, chest pain, or are instructed to stop. When you reach your peak level of exercise, you’ll again receive a radioactive dye through an IV. Once finished with the exercise stress test you will return to the waiting room to eat the snack you brought with you or have a cup of coffee etc. In about 30-45 minutes you will again return to the stress lab for your post stress images. This will take again about 4-6 minutes and then you are finished.

If you can’t exercise, you’ll receive a medication that safely simulates the effects of exercise on your heart. This is called a Lexiscan stress test.. Lexiscan is injected into your IV for about 10 seconds, followed immediately by a saline solution to clear the intravenous (IV) line. Lexiscan dilates the coronary arteries to allow increased blood flow to the heart. It does not make your heartrate or blood pressure increase unlike a regular treadmill stress test.
When you have finished your stress test, you can return to your normal routine. The two sets of images taken during the test will allow us to compare blood flow through your heart while you are at rest and exercising. Your cardiologist will assess your results and discuss them with you at your follow up visit.
( If you are only referred to our office for testing – your results will be sent to the referring physician same day as your test )