What is a nuclear cardiac stress test?

A cardiac stress test is a screening tool that helps your doctor to determine if there is a lack of blood supply in your heart, helping your doctor to detect some heart diseases. This test uses a heart monitor that records your heart rate and rhythm while you exercise, letting the team know if there are any changes in your heart while you exercise.

How do I prepare?

  • Do not eat or drink for 4 hours before the test, unless you are diabetic.
    • If you are diabetic you should take a light breakfast before coming to the test.

  • You will be asked to refrain from anything that has caffeine (coffee, tea or chocolate, carbonated or energy drinks) for 24 hours prior to the test. It is extremely important that you follow these instructions; otherwise, we will cancel your test.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing for exercise. The whole test takes approximately 4-5 hours.
  • Your doctor will tell you if you should withhold any medications for that day.

What happens during the test?

  • A line will be will be placed in your vein (also known as an IV line) by a technologist or nurse for the administration of the radioactive tracer/and or medication if needed.
  • Images of your heart will be acquired in two sets; one set of images will be taken while your heart is at rest, and one set will be taken after your heart has been stressed.
  • Between the two sets of images, you will have the exercise portion of the test. You will be hooked up to monitoring equipment so we can monitor your heart and blood pressure during the procedure.
    • Treadmill: If you are able, you will be stressed while walking on the treadmill at increasing speed/incline and a tracer will be injected.
    • Pharmacologic: If you are unable to walk, you will be given a medication in replacement. This medication will have the same effects as walking on the treadmill. The medication will be given to you in the IV line.
    • Some side effects you may experience with this medication include: palpitations, shortness of breath, headache, however they should resolve within a half hour.

After completion of the “stress” exam, you will be given some time to eat and drink as directed by the nurse. You will return after approximately one hour for the last “rest images”.

After the procedure

Receiving the test results

Results are available approximately 24 hours after your test is complete. Please contact your referring physician to schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss the results. You may pick up your results from the HIMS department (located on P1).

You should seek medical advice if you have any of the following:

  • Signs of heart attack or stroke (such as dizziness, collapse, change in eyesight, weakness, trouble speaking, face drop)
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Fast or slow heartbeat
  • Seizures

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