Nuclear Stress Test

A nuclear stress test, which is generally recommended for patients with a higher risk of coronary disease, is a noninvasive, diagnostic test that measures blood flow to the heart muscle before, during and after exercise. A nuclear stress test combines exercise with nuclear imaging.

During a nuclear stress test, the patient is injected with a small amount of a radioactive substance, which mixes with the blood, prior to images being taken. A scanner developed to track the radioactive material determines if there's insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle.

There are three parts to the nuclear stress test. The patient will get a series of images before and after exercise. The exercise stress portion of the test normally consists of walking on a treadmill. If a patient is unable to walk on a treadmill, a different kind of medicine - one that achieves the same goal - is used.

During the test, electrodes, which are connected to an electrocardiogram machine, are placed on the patient's chest. A blood pressure cuff will be placed on one arm and is inflated periodically, checking the body's response to increased physical demand.

When the patient arrives at a maximum level of exercise, a radioactive "tracer" is injected, enabling the blood flow to be evaluated. There should be no discomfort from the injection of the "tracer," and the small dose of radioactive material almost completely disappears within 24 hours.

The test is not recommended for patients who are pregnant.

Nuclear Stress Test Procedure

Patients referred to Piedmont Athens Regional's CPV Services are reminded not to eat or drink anything after midnight before their nuclear stress test and are advised to take NO CAFFEINE. Bring all medications that you are taking and be sure to wear comfortable clothing and appropriate shoes to walk in.

Patients are also advised to be off beta blockers (with the approval of your doctor) for 24 hours before the test and to be off Tenormin and/or Theophylline (with the approval of your doctor) for 48 hours before the test.

The entire procedure takes a while, so patients should be prepared to be in CPV Services for at least three hours, and should report to Talmadge Tower Registration - with written orders from your doctor - about 30 minutes before your appointment time.

At the conclusion of the test, physicians may be able to provide a preliminary summary, and a more complete report should be available to the ordering doctor within a day. Patients are able to eat, drink and resume normal activity immediately after the test is over.

If you have any questions about the test, call 706-475-3654.