A nuclear stress test measures blood flow to your heart while you are at rest and again when your heart function is under more demand, or “stressed”, through medication. Before and after an injection with a small amount of radioactive dye, this test provides images that can show areas of low blood flow through the heart and damaged heart muscle.
We may recommend nuclear stress testing to:
- Evaluate symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain in order to rule out or diagnose coronary artery disease
- Measure the size of the heart to see if your heart is enlarged
- Review effectiveness of current treatment for existing heart disorders such as coronary artery disease, arrhythmia or another heart condition
- Gauge if the heart can withstand the stress of anesthesia or extensive surgery before non-cardiac surgery
- Evaluate the patient following a cardiac event
- Evaluate the damage suffered from a heart attack
- Evaluate the functional capacity of an individual to determine what level of activity or exercise the person can withstand
What are the risks of nuclear stress testing?
You will be informed of all significant risks prior to the treatment and have an opportunity to ask questions. Complications can, but rarely include, the following:
- You may experience slight pain at the injection site or some redness which should quickly resolve.
- Allergic reactions may occur but are extremely rare and usually mild. Please inform the nuclear medicine personnel if you have any allergies or other previous problems with a nuclear medicine exam.
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) brought on either by the medication used during a stress test usually go away shortly after you stop exercising or the medication wears off. Life-threatening arrhythmias are rare.
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction). Although extremely rare, it is possible that a nuclear stress test could cause a heart attack.
- Although symptoms are usually brief, flushing sensation or chest pain can occur when you are given the medication (vasodilator) to stress your heart if you are unable to exercise adequately.
How do I prepare for nuclear stress testing?
1. If your test is scheduled before 12:00 noon, you should fast from the night before. You may drink only clear liquids (water, lemonade, or juice). Do not drink regular or decaffeinated coffee, tea, soda, or any beverage containing chocolate. If your test is scheduled after 12:00 noon, then you may eat a very light breakfast (juice and toast) prior to 8:00 a.m. Do not consume caffeine products within 4 hours prior to your scheduled appointment time. You are encouraged to drink plenty of water.
If you are insulin-dependent or take pills for your diabetes, you may eat a small breakfast.
PLEASE BRING A SNACK WITH YOU TO HAVE FOLLOWING THE TEST.
2. Please wear a button-down shirt that does not contain any metal buttons, zippers, or any other metal objects. For women: Please wear a bra without metal underwire. Wear a comfortable, secure pair of shoes for the exercise portion of the test. Please do not wear sandals or backless shoes.
3. The test will take approximately 3-4 hours to complete. Please plan accordingly.
4. DO NOT smoke cigarettes the day of the test.
5. DO NOT take the medications from the following list on the day of the test. You may take all other medications except those mentioned here:
Beta-blockers: Nadolol/Corgard, Sotalol, Atenolol/Tenormin, Coreg/Carvedilol, Lopressor/Metoprolol, Bystolic, Pindolol/Visken, Propranolol/Inderal, Levatol/Penbutolol, Toprol XL, Rhythmol
Calcium Channel Blockers: Cardizem/Diltiazem, Calan/Verapamil
*If you are a female under 50 years old, and there is a possibility you may be pregnant, this test CANNOT be performed. Please notify the office at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of the test to cancel.
*Cancellations must be made at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of your test, or you will be charged for the cost of the isotope ($200.00), which must be ordered 24 hours in advance.
*If you had any radioisotope therapies within the past three months or other nuclear scans done in the past two weeks, please notify us. MRI and CT scans with contrast are acceptable.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your upcoming procedure, please contact our office during business hours at (561) 296-5225.
What should I expect during a nuclear stress test?
A nuclear stress test takes approximately 3 to 4 hours, from start to finish. You will arrive and sign all necessary consent forms. When you are brought back to the nuclear lab by the nurse, the nuclear isotope is injected through an IV, and then you will need to wait for 30 to 60 minutes for the isotope to fully circulate. After this wait period, you will be asked to lay down on the bed of the nuclear camera for pictures to be taken. After the technician completes the camera portion of the test, you will receive another set of isotopes and wait another 30-60 minutes. Finally, you will complete the exercise portion of the stress test, supervised by a registered nurse and Dr. Fenster. A follow-up appointment is scheduled within one or two weeks to discuss the results of the nuclear stress test with Dr. Fenster.
Where will the nuclear stress test be performed?
All elements of the nuclear stress test will be performed right in Dr. Fenster’s office:
Cardiac Institute of the Palm Beaches, PA
3355 Burns Road
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
After Nuclear Stress Testing
When the test is complete, you may return to normal activities, unless the doctor directs you otherwise. The radioactive dye will naturally leave your body in your urine or stool, but drinking plenty of water will help flush it out of your system.
Our doctor will discuss the results of your nuclear stress testing on your follow-up or return visit.
At the Cardiac Institute of the Palm Beaches, we will develop the most effective treatment plan specifically for you.
Call today 561-296-5225.