A nuclear stress test is a common test that doctors use to diagnose coronary artery disease or to determine if there is a lack of blood flow to your heart as it relates to previously known blockages. A nuclear “tracer” is injected in the bloodstream. It travels through the area being examined and gives off energy in the form of gamma rays which are detected by a special camera and a computer to create images of the inside of your body.
Two sets of images are taken of your heart with a special “Gamma camera”. One set of images are a “Rest Phase” and the other is the “Stress Phase”. A comparison is made between the two sets which determines whether or not you have significant blockages in the heart arteries. These blockages could affect the blood flow to the heart.
Nuclear medicine imaging provides unique information that often cannot be obtained using other imaging procedures.
The team at San Tan Cardiovascular use this technology as another way to provide exceptional treatment to patients by offering this service at the Mesa office location in a convenient, professional and comfortable setting.
The day of the test the staff will discuss the test, have you sign a consent form, and record your height and weight. Staff will start an IV and administer an injection of the radioisotope (nuclear medicine). It is not a dye and will not make you feel differently.
There will be a waiting period of approximately 45 minutes for the tracer to do its job then a set of images is taken. You will either sit up or lie down on a table where a special “Gamma camera” will take a scan your heart for approximately 15-30 minutes. You must remain very still during these images or it will have to be repeated. This is considered the “Resting Phase” of the test.
You will be connected to an EKG machine and your blood pressure and pulse will be checked.
For the “stress phase”, you will walk on a treadmill, with the speed and slope increased every few minutes. The staff will look for changes in the EKG and blood pressure levels, which may tell doctors that your heart is not getting enough oxygen. Tell the staff if you experience chest pain or unusual shortness of breath while you are walking.
Once your “target heart rate” is achieved, a second dose of the nuclear tracer will be injected. You will need to walk at least one minute following the injection to let it circulate in your bloodstream before stopping.
**If your doctor would rather you not exercise, a medication (“chemical”) can be administered into your IV to increase your heart rate for the stress phase. It may be best to do a chemical stress test as opposed to exercise if you are not able to walk safely on the treadmill, have certain EKG patterns, a pacemaker, or a defibrillator. In addition, if you try the treadmill and cannot achieve the target heart rate, then a chemical stress test will be necessary.
There will be another 45 minute waiting period for the tracer to do its job. At this point, you may eat the snack you brought.
You will be scanned a second time under the gamma camera. The Physician will compare these “stress” pictures with the first set of “resting” pictures.
Contact San Tan Cardiovascular Center today to make an appointment with one of our healthcare providers.
At this appointment:
Our billing department will then contact your health insurance company to obtain prior authorization. Upon receiving insurance authorization, the test will be scheduled.
Q: How should I prepare for my test?
A: Plan to be at the office 3-5 hours.
Q: When will I find out the results of the test?
A: You will be given a separate appointment, for 1-2 weeks later, to discuss your test results with the provider.
Your results could show:
If you don’t have enough blood flow through your heart, you may need to undergo a Coronary Angiogram. This test looks directly at the blood vessels supplying your heart.
***If you are planning on flying/traveling in the next 48 hours, please let us know***
The nuclear tracer can sometimes set off the radiation alarms. We will give you a letter indicating you had the procedure. The nuclear tracer will be completely out of your system within 60 hours.