Leading-Edge Nuclear Stress Test Services at Valley Radiology

Nuclear stress tests are a valuable tool for 

  • Diagnosing and managing several heart conditions
  • Guiding personalized treatment plans
  • Promoting overall heart health

Whether you need a routine check-up, preventative screening, or diagnostic assessment, the skilled physicians at Valley Radiology are committed to providing patient-centered services that meet your unique needs.

Continue reading to understand why your cardiologist might recommend a nuclear heart test and what valuable insights it can provide for your heart health. 

What Is a Nuclear Cardiac Stress Test?

A cardiac nuclear medicine heart scan is a test that uses a small dose of a radioactive substance, called a tracer, to track blood flow to the heart muscle and evaluate overall heart function. 

During the nuclear heart test, you will use a treadmill or stationary exercise bike with several electrodes attached just below your left and right clavicle, on the lower edge of your rib cage, and at the level of the umbilicus (belly button) at the mid-clavicular line. These electrodes help your physician evaluate your heart’s response to physical activity by monitoring your heart rate, blood pressure, and electrocardiograms while you exercise.

Your physician takes measurements while you are at rest and when you reach your target heart rate for your age. This comparison helps identify whether you have significant blockages in your heart arteries.  

Why Would My Cardiologist Order a Nuclear Stress Test?

A nuclear heart test, or nuclear heart scan, shows whether your heart muscle is getting enough blood flow and oxygen when working hard (under stress). Your physician or cardiologist may order this test to discover how well a treatment (e.g., prescription medicines, angioplasty, or heart surgery) works.

It can also show whether you are at high risk for heart disease or other heart complications.

What Does a Nuclear Cardiac Stress Test Show?

A nuclear medicine cardiac stress test shows heart problems like

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart valve disease
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

You may be a candidate for a heart nuclear scan if you have symptoms of heart disease, including persistent

  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Arrhythmia (rapid or irregular heartbeat)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

How Long Does a Nuclear Stress Test Take?

If you have a nuclear heart test appointment, plan on being at the facility for about two to four hours. 

The time needed for a heart stress test and acquiring needed images is about 60 minutes. However, additional time is required for the following preparation tasks

  • Tracer injection
    Your technician or radiologist will inject a mild radioactive substance, or tracer, into your vein. It is used to highlight problem areas in the heart muscle. The tracer travels through the bloodstream, and healthy heart muscle absorbs it. Damaged areas or areas with inadequate blood flow do not absorb the tracer. These areas look different on the imaging scans, allowing physicians to pinpoint the problem areas.
  • Waiting period
    The tracer needs 10-60 minutes to circulate through your body, depending on the radioactive substance used. During this time, you may lie or sit down and rest comfortably.
  • Exercise (approximately 7-12 minutes)
    Before your nuclear heart test, you will walk on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary exercise bike until you reach your target heart rate (approximately 85% of the maximum heart rate predicated for your age). To help you reach your target heart rate, the speed, incline, and resistance will increase every three minutes for up to 15 minutes.

Nuclear Cardiology Preparation

If you’ve been referred for a cardiac nuclear scan, here are some things you’ll need to do ahead of time to prepare

  • Begin fasting the night before the test.
  • Avoid all products with caffeine for 24 hours before the test.
  • Drink only water on the morning of your test.
  • Continue taking all prescription and over-the-counter medications, supplements, and vitamins. Be sure to provide your doctor with a medication list before your appointment. 
  • Refrain from drinking for two to hours before the test.
  • Dress comfortably in exercise clothing and sneakers for walking or running.

Delivering Premier Nuclear Stress Testing and Imaging Services in Fayetteville and Angier, NC

Our dedicated team offers leading-edge nuclear medicine scans and imaging solutions, including the heart nuclear test, as an integral part of a comprehensive health evaluation. 

Please note that a doctor’s referral is required for all nuclear heart tests and all other services except mammograms.