Nuclear Studies & Test

Also known as: Cardiac Nuclear Imaging

Cardiac nuclear imaging, also referred to as a nuclear study or nuclear stress test, provides an accurate look of your heart’s blood flow. It reveals how efficiently your heart pumps, any blockages in the arteries or if there has been a prior heart attack. This information is key in determining the most effective treatment to protect your heart.

Cardiac nuclear imaging uses small amounts of radioactive material injected into a vein to create images of how blood flows through your heart.

The study allows your doctor to see the size of your heart’s chambers, how well your heart pumps blood and whether your heart has any muscle damage.

Your doctor will provide instructions and inform you of restrictions for the day before your test, like fasting and whether to stop taking any medications.

For the resting portion, you may be asked to wear a hospital gown. You will be attached to EKG and blood monitors, and an IV line will be started in your arm. You will lie very still on a scanning bed as the scanning camera takes pictures.

For the exercise portion, you’ll spend a few minutes exercising on a treadmill. When you feel you can’t go on or you’ve reached a certain target, you will stop, and the tracer will be injected through the IV. You will be positioned on the scanning bed to repeat the imaging process. If you can’t exercise, you will receive a drug that is able to mimic your heart during exertion.

The study takes approximately 3-4 hours.

The resulting images will show where blood flows through your heart muscle. Areas of the heart that have good blood flow absorb the tracer. Areas that are not getting enough blood will not absorb the tracer. This can be a sign of a blocked artery or damage from a heart attack.

Your test results will be sent to your primary care physician.

While cardiac nuclear imaging is considered a safe procedure, there is some risk. Though rare, allergic reaction may result from the radioactive material in the tracer that is injected during the study.

The stress test portion of the study may cause the following: arrhythmia or abnormal heartbeat, dizziness or chest pain and low blood pressure. Although extremely rare, it’s possible the stress test could cause a heart attack.