A nuclear stress test evaluates the blood flow to the heart, looking for blockage in the heart arteries. The test combines nuclear cardiac imaging and a cardiac stress test. During nuclear imaging, small amounts of safe nuclear tracer agents are used with Emission Tomography (SPECT and MUGA) imaging to study blood supply and the heart function, including assessing the extent of living muscle tissue following a heart attack.
When you arrive for your nuclear stress test, a technologist will get an IV started and obtain a medical history. Once the IV is started you will be injected with the first dose of a radioactive tracer called Cardiolite. You will be sent to the waiting room for approximately one hour. While you are waiting, you will be asked to drink water.
After the one-hour wait, you will be called back for the first scan on the nuclear camera. These pictures take 10-20 minutes to complete. After the scan you will be taken for the stress test, which may consist of walking on a treadmill or laying down for a chemical stress test. For the stress test, you will be connected to an EKG machine and blood pressure monitor. The EKG and blood pressure will be evaluated throughout the entire stress test. During the stress test, you will be injected with a second dose of the radioactive tracer, Cardiolite.
Once the stress test is complete, you will be given a second break. On this break you are able to eat a meal, have caffeine, and take any medications.
You will be given a specific time to return to the testing department for a second scan on the nuclear camera. These pictures will also take 10-20 minutes. Once both scans are obtained, the test is complete.
To prepare for the nuclear stress test, wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Do not drink caffeine (including decaffeinated products) within 12 hours and do not eat or drink four hours prior to test time. This test takes approximately four to five hours.