Nuclear Stress Test

A nuclear stress test uses radioactive dye and an imaging machine to create pictures showing the blood flow to your heart. Nuclear stress testing is an office or hospital (outpatient) based test where the patient has two sets of pictures taken of the heart, one during exercise and a second during rest, in order to compare the relative blood flow to the heart under stress conditions. Exercise is usually accomplished using a treadmill, but for patients who cannot walk on the treadmill, we use a “chemical stress test” where a medicine is given that simulates exercise by dilating the heart arteries. The images are created using a small amount of a radioactive tracer injected into the bloodstream which travels to the heart muscle and emits energy that can be detected using the nuclear camera. Information about the blood flow to the heart muscle is obtained and differences between the rest and stress images can indicate old heart damage or heart muscle at risk for damage.