What is a Nuclear Stress Test?
A nuclear stress test is a type of exercise test. It is very similar to a classic cardiac stress test. The main difference is that a nuclear stress test involves injecting the patient with a tracer dye, so that a special camera can record images of blood flow. Images will be taken before and after exercise, and a technician will compare the images.
A treadmill is the most common way for a patient to increase their heart rate for the nuclear stress test. However, any piece of exercise equipment, like a rowing machine or stationary bicycle, will do. Patients with mobility issues, who cannot use a treadmill, can be given a drug that raises the heart rate and mimics the effects of exercise.
The test uses a needle-free sensor that clips to your fingers and toes like a clothespin. The doctor will test a finger and a toe on each hand. Then you’ll do some minor exercise, like flutter kicks, and the doctor will repeat the test.
Why do you need a Nuclear Stress Test?
A nuclear stress test usually follows a routine stress test when the results of the routine stress test are of concern.
Routine stress tests and nuclear stress tests are given to patients who have symptoms of a heart condition like Coronary Artery Disease. Those symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Racing heart
- Irregular heartbeat
Watching the blood flow through to and then away from your heart, during rest and exercise, can tell your cardiologist if you have CAD, and if so, how severe your case is.
If you have already been diagnosed with CAD or another heart condition, a nuclear stress test can help your doctor make informed decisions about your treatment. This includes how well your treatment is working, what next steps you and your doctor need to make, and establishing how much exercise you should be doing in order to strengthen your heart without putting yourself at risk of a cardiac event.
How does a Nuclear Stress Test Differ from a Cardiac Stress Test?
For a nuclear stress test, the patient is given a tracer dye through an IV. The radioactive dye used in this test exposes patients to a very small amount of radiation. Our doctors, as well as your insurance company, will work hard to ensure no patient is given a radioactive tracer too often.
Nuclear Stress Test Results Will Show:
How efficiently the heart is pumping
How exercise affects the heart
How much blood is flowing through the cardiac arteries
Any damaged heart tissue
Both a classic cardiac stress test and a nuclear stress test are considered to be low-risk procedures.
The tracer used in a nuclear stress test contains a small amount of radiation. The amount of radiation received during the test is not enough to pose health risks. We’ll make sure you aren’t given another radioactive tracer for at least one year.
Sometimes, exercise can trigger a cardiac event in a person with heart disease. This happens very rarely. If your doctor suspects that you might be at risk of having a cardiac event during your test, we’ll take extra measures to ensure your safety.
Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test (CPET)
Why do you need a Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test (CPET)?
You have experienced shortness of breath, and your cardiologist is unsure of the cause
You are planning to undergo surgery, and your doctor needs more information to minimize your risk
You want to increase your fitness and exercise routine without putting unsafe pressure on your heart
The CPET is a non-invasive stress test. It has become a clinical tool to evaluate the exercise capacity an individual may have and predict future complications of patients with heart failure and cardiac conditions.
A benefit of the Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test include:
Stressing the heart and lungs in a controlled environment