The heart is a muscle which requires oxygen and nutrients. The coronary arteries deliver oxygen and nutrients to your heart so it can pump blood through your body. People with coronary artery disease (CAD) may have arteries that become blocked by fatty deposits called plaques. This can decrease blood flow to the heart. Symptoms that result from decreased blood flow to the heart can include chest pain (angina), shortness of breath or a heart attack. A heart muscle that has been injured can be permanently damaged if the arteries stay blocked for an extended period of time. It’s important to identify any problems as soon as possible.
What is a nuclear stress test?
A nuclear stress test measures the blood flow to the heart during exercise and at rest. This is generally a one day test, although it may be done in two days. You will be here for most of the days so please plan accordingly. The scheduler will let you know if you can expect a one or two day test.
Why is this being done?
The test will help your physician determine if you have any areas within your heart that may have blockage due to plaque.
Day of your test:
- Do not consume any food or drink (NPO) at least 4 hours before your test. Coffee, tea, soda, chocolate or anything containing caffeine should be consumed for 24 hours before your test. Excedrin, aminophylline or theophylline should be avoided. Ask your doctor if they would like you to stop any other medications the day of the test. You should ask your physician if there are any other dietary restrictions you should follow.
- Your physician will inform you of medications to hold if you have diabetes and use insulin or oral diabetes medication.
- Inform your physician if you have a history of wheezing, asthma, chronic lung disease or a history of seizures.
- Do not apply any creams, lotions or powder to your chest area on the day of the test.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
During the nuclear stress test:
- A small needle (catheter) will be placed in a vein in your arm at the start of the test. You will be awake and alert during the entire test.
- A small amount of radioactive liquid called a tracer will be injected into your bloodstream through the catheter. A special camera will take pictures of your heart once the tracer moves through your arteries. The pictures will be taken when your heart has been stressed by walking on a treadmill and again at rest. You will be asked to lie on your back with your arms above your head so that the camera can take pictures of your heart. It’s important that you stay as still as possible during the picture portion which will take 15 minutes.
After the exam:
There are no restrictions on your activities after the test. A physician will read the test so that results can be discussed with you at your follow up appointment. The best treatment options will be discussed with you at that time.