Results help diagnose artery disease and heart problems

If a patient is experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath or their doctor has other reason to suspect blocked arteries, they may be asked to take a stress test. 

This normally involves exercising on a treadmill or stationery bike for about 10 minutes. During this time, small metal electrodes attached to the body help record information about blood flow to the heart that is sent to an imaging machine.

Traditional stress tests are called stress echo tests. There are times, however, when they do not provide sufficient information for your medical team to pinpoint the cause of your problems. When that happens, physicians may request a nuclear stress test. These tests, which involve the injection of small amounts of radioactive dye, can produce detailed images of damaged heart muscle and areas of the heart that are displaying low blood flow.

By more accurately diagnosing your condition, these tests can help physicians diagnose coronary artery disease, different heart disorders, and prevent heart attacks.

 What to Expect

Just as in a regular stress test, a number of electrodes are placed on the chest, arms and legs. They are then connected to an electrocardiography (ECG or EKG) machine to record the electrical signals that trigger your heartbeat. A cuff is also placed on your arm to monitor blood pressure throughout the test. And radioactive dye is injected into your hand or arm allowing us to capture detailed images of the blood flow of your heart for each stage of testing.

We then take two series of images. The first set is taken while the patient is exercising on a treadmill or stationary bike. (For those unable to exercise, a medication is used to increase blood flow to the heart.) The second set is taken while the patient is resting. We use the information gathered to determine how well your heart works during both stages.

Our radiologists are experienced in nuclear medicine and, generally, nuclear stress tests are safe. But  as with any medical procedure, there are some risks, such as an allergic reaction to the radioactive dye, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, or heart attack. We will thoroughly discuss all these risks with you before the test.

Patients can return to their normal daily activities immediately following the test.

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