Nuclear Medicine Stress Test or Myocardial Perfusion Imaging.

What is a Nuclear Stress Test and why would your doctor order this test? A nuclear stress test is used by doctors to diagnose heart disease. If your doctor wants you to have a nuclear stress test, you may have symptoms of heart disease or certain risk factors for it. Not everyone who has a stress test has heart disease. Your test results can help your doctor determine if you have a disease or if you may be at risk for a heart attack.

This test will help your doctor determine:

  1. If your heart is receiving enough blood.
  2. If you have coronary artery disease (CAD).

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease is a type of heart disease and occurs when the arteries that carry blood to the heart become clogged with fatty deposits called plaque. These buildups can clog the vessels, reducing the amount of blood that flows to your heart. When this happens, more serious problems can develop, including:

  1. Chest pain, or angina
  2. Heart attack
  3. Heart failure
  4. Changes in your heart rhythm

What happens during a nuclear stress test?

The test has three steps:

Step 1. Rest Images– First you will have an I.V. started, then the nuclear technologist will inject a small radioactive tracer through your I.V. After a short wait the Tech will take you to the imaging area where pictures are taken of your heart.

Step 2. Stress Test– The heart is stressed by one of two methods; treadmill stress or use of a medication.

  • Treadmill Stress: If able, you will exercise on a treadmill until your heart reaches a certain point of exertion based on your age.
  • Medication Stress: If unable to walk on a treadmill they might use a medication called Lexiscan. With the use of this medication, your arteries are dilated. Once they are dilated a small amount of radioactive tracer is injected and target or bond to the parts of the heart that have the best blood flow.

Step 3. Stress Images– Similar to the rest images, you will have more images taken after exercise. These images will show if any part of the heart is not getting enough blood during exercise.

  • The two sets of images will be compared. The first images show the heart during normal function (at rest). The second set of images shows the heart function during exercise. A healthy heart will have little or no difference between the stress and rest images. A heart with a partially blocked artery will show a difference between the stress and rest.

Talk to your physician for more information about Nuclear Stress Tests or contact Mary Clark, RN for a free brochure.