Nuclear Stress Test

A nuclear stress test, also referred to as a myocardial perfusion scan, is one of the most commonly performed diagnostic heart tests. The test itself takes two hours and is broken down into several parts.

Two Types of Nuclear Stress Tests

  • Exercise Nuclear Stress Test
  • Pharmacological Nuclear Stress Test

How the test is performed:

  • An IV will be started and an injection of nuclear isotope will be given through the IV.
  • The isotope will circulate for approximately 30-45 minutes. Once it has circulated, you will lie under a small nuclear camera (not a tube as in an MRI or CT) for your first set of resting images. The scan itself lasts for approximately 7-10 minutes.
  • Once the first set of images is complete, you will then be prepped for the stress portion of the test. During this time, multiple leads will be placed on your upper torso so that you can be closely monitored while walking on the treadmill.
  • When your maximum exercise tolerance has nearly been reached, the radioactive tracer is injected through the IV. You will continue exercising for about one minute to allow the tracer to disperse through the heart.
  • For patients who have difficulty on a treadmill, a pharmacological stress test using adenosine, regadenoson, dobutamine or dipyridamole can take the place of the treadmill.  These agents are given intravenously.
  • You will then lie under the camera for a second set of stress images. Again, this will last approximately 7-10 minutes.

Preparation for the nuclear stress test includes the following:

  • Nothing to eat or drink four hours prior to your appointment.
  • No caffeinated or decaffeinated products 24 hours prior to your test time (coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, energy bars/drinks, etc). Your test may be cancelled if you have caffeinated or decaffeinated products.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes. No open-toed shoes are allowed on the treadmill.
  • Bring a snack with you to have after you complete the stress portion of the test.
  • Please hold your beta blocker medications the day of the test.
  • If you are taking Viagra or any other sexual stimulants, please discontinue them at least 24 hours prior to the test.
  • If you have an inhaler, bring it with you the day of the test.
  • Bring a current list of your medications.
  • You must have a written order for the test from your referring physician or a Maryland Uniform Referral if your insurance requires one.
  • Arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment time to help with the check-in process at the front desk.

Once your test has been completed it will be read by one of our board certified nuclear cardiology physicians. The results will then be forwarded to your ordering physician.