Diagnostic Tests & Procedures
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Nuclear Stress Tests

Doctor administering Nuclear Stress Tests

The addition of nuclear imaging to the stress test provides more powerful and reliable information to your doctor than a regular treadmill test without imaging pictures. There are two types of nuclear stress tests – exercise nuclear stress tests and pharmacologic nuclear stress studies. During an exercise nuclear stress, a patient walks on a treadmill while they are monitored. Pharmacologic nuclear stress tests are performed on those patients who are unable to walk on a treadmill requiring the substitution of a medicine (Perantine or Dobutamine) that mimics the exercise effect on the heart.

With either form of stress test, pictures are taken of your heart at rest and after stress or medication. A small dose of a radioactive material (Sestamibi) is injected into the blood stream to allow for assessment of blood flow to the heart muscle. Blood flow before a nuclear stress test is primarily used to evaluate the presence and severity of coronary cholesterol blockages and during stress are compared to assess the presence of blockages or damaged heart muscle (prior heart attack).

What to expect:

  • Medications are often held for the day prior to the test. Please check with our office if there is any question, especially if you are taking a beta blocker medicine such as Lopressor, Metoprolol or Atenolol.
  • Do not eat or drink anything except water for four hours before the test.
  • If you use an inhaler, bring it to the test.
  • Please wear comfortable clothes and sneakers or similar shoes.
  • Before the stress portion, a small dose of the radioactive agent will be injected and then images are obtained over approximately 20 minutes.
  • You are brought into the stress room, where the nurse will place electrodes on your chest. The electrodes allow us to record your EKG and pulse rate during the test.
  • Once the rest images are acquired, you get on the treadmill or the Dobutamine infusion is started.  At select intervals, an EKG will be recorded, along with your blood pressure and you will be asked about any symptoms you may have.
  • Approximately 1 minute before you have to stop, you will receive your second injection of Sestamibi and will continue exercising for the next minute.
  • The treadmill will come to a stop or the infusion will be stopped and you will sit down while additional EKGs are recorded.
  • You will be brought back to the waiting area and 30 minutes later you will undergo acquisition of your stress images.
  • You are monitored by experienced clinicians and technologists during the test.
  • The entire test takes approximately four hours.
Southcoast Physicians Group An affiliate of Southcoast Physicians Group.