Cardiac Nuclear Stress Testing at NMC Health

At NMC Health, we care about your heart. When something isn’t quite right, there are tests you can do to see what’s going on. One test your doctor might order is a cardiac nuclear stress test. The test is done in the imaging department.

Cardiac nuclear medicine stress tests are for people who have unexplained chest pain or chest pain during exercise (called angina).  A cardiac nuclear stress test can pinpoint early heart disease.

Types of stress tests

Pictures are taken with special cameras (gamma and SPECT cameras). Areas of your heart will “light up” on the image because of the radioactive dye. Your heart can be “stressed” with the help of exercise, medicine or both.

The most common cardiac stress test procedure is called myocardial perfusion imaging. It allows heart specialists to see how your blood flows to the heart walls. This test is important for finding and locating heart blockages caused by coronary artery disease. It also can show any damage to the heart after you experience a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

What to expect

During the procedure, a radioactive dye is injected to show blood flow in your heart. You will be monitored while resting and while exercising to show any potential damage to your heart. This diagnostic imaging procedure is minimally invasive.

Other nuclear stress tests include:

  • Cardiac SPECT Scan where a special camera called a gamma camera will take pictures of your heart after it is injected with radioactive dye. This will show the doctor whether your heart is getting enough blood or if you have any blockages.
  • Thallium Stress Test where a gamma camera will take pictures of your heart’s function while you rest, then while you exercise. Because radioactive dye has been injected into your veins, the images will show any issues your heart might be having.
If you have a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the NMC Health Medical Center Emergency Department.

FAQs

Your primary care doctor will tell you if you need to see a heart doctor (cardiologist). Your cardiologist will let you know if you need a cardiac nuclear stress test. You will then get a referral to a hospital that offers the procedure.

Your comfort is of the highest priority at NMC Health. Most procedures and testing are pain free. Some additional lab work may be needed, which could include a blood draw. You might find blood draws uncomfortable for only a short time.

Yes. Please make sure to have an updated list of all medicines you are taking including any over the counter medicine or vitamins. You will also need your insurance card and an inhaler if you use one. Your doctor will send over your referral for you.

It’s best not to eat or drink anything after midnight the day of your test. Wear comfortable clothing and tennis shoes. Take all your regular medicine before midnight, unless your cardiologist tells you otherwise.

When you arrive on the day of your cardiac stress test, check in with our admission department. You will be escorted to our imaging department to undergo the minimally invasive procedure.

Typically, you’ll be able to go back to your regular activities after your test. Be sure to drink lots of water over the next few days to help get the rest of the radioactive material out of your body. It should be gone in the next 24 to 72 hours.

When your cardiac stress test is complete, you will not have any limitations of who you can or cannot be around. The amount of radioactive material that is injected to your body is so small that it poses no risk to anyone around you. You can resume normal activities unless told otherwise by your doctor.