Nuclear Stress Test

Nuclear Stress Test OR Myocardial Perfusion Scan

A nuclear stress test is a non – invasive cardiac imaging test used to capture pictures of the heart at rest and after exercise. It is also known as a Myocardial Perfusion scan and is used to evaluate blood flow into the heart muscle. Cardiologists generally recommend this test to diagnose and determine the proper treatment for coronary artery disease. 

How is Nuclear Stress Test performed? :

The patient is connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine with electrodes attached to his chest and back. It helps to keep track of his heartbeat during the test. His blood pressure is also continuously monitored throughout the test. An IV (intravenous) line is started on his arm, and he is asked to exercise using a treadmill or an exercise bike. If the patient cannot exercise, drugs that stimulate the heart rate (like adenosine or dobutamine) are administered.

The patient is asked to stop at reaching the maximal exercise point, and a small amount of radioactive material is injected via the IV line. This radioactive material (thallium or sestamibi) is called a radioactive tracer. He is then asked to lie flat or sit completely still on a table for 10 to 45 minutes while the gamma camera captures pictures of his heart. This imaging session reveals blood flow distribution to the heart muscle during peak exercise and the heart’s ejection fraction.

After this session, the patient may leave the area for 3 to 4 hours before the second set of scans begin. During this resting period, the patient is instructed to refrain from caffeinated drinks, soda, and chocolate. For the second set of scans, the patient will be injected with a second tracer, and another set of pictures are taken. It shows the resting blood flow to the heart muscle. The IV line is removed after the necessary images are captured. In some labs, the resting part of the test is done first or on a different day.

Are there any risks involved in it? :

The common problems associated with it are chest pain, fatigue, headache, and shortness of breath. Arrhythmias, palpitations, and heart attacks are some of the rare complications of this test.

FAQs: Nuclear Stress Test

What are preparations required from the patient? The patient must fast for 4 hours and not drink caffeinated drinks for 24 hours before the test. He/She must also avoid sodas, chocolates, pain relievers containing caffeine, and nitrate medications before the test. The patient is generally advised to wear comfortable clothing and shoes for the test.

How long does it take? It takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete the test. 

Who performs it? A nuclear cardiovascular technician performs this diagnostic test.

How much does Myocardial Perfusion scan cost? It costs around Rs. 10K to 15K to get this test done.

When can I go home after the procedure? The patient can resume his normal activities and go home immediately after the test.


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