Nuclear Stress Tests: Technology That Touches Your Heart

Get a clearer picture of your heart health

Heart disease remains the #1 killer in Arkansas which means over one million people are currently living with cardiovascular disease in the state. And while regular wellness visits and lifestyle changes should be done in response to this epidemic, taking targeted, preventative action is critical to pinpoint problems and save lives. 

Advanced diagnostics = a more complete picture 

While the name may sound intimidating, a nuclear stress test is a very safe tool to diagnose heart disease or rule out concerns. During the test, a small amount of radioactive tracer is injected into a vein to show blood flow in the heart and arteries. A special gamma camera detects the radiation released by the tracer and gives clear images that help providers pinpoint problems. If something is detected, physicians have the accurate information they need to determine a plan of care to help prevent serious, even fatal, heart issues.

What to expect 

A nuclear stress test takes 2 to 3 hours, with the stress portion lasting only 7 to 12 minutes. Patients first receive an IV in their arm or hand, and the radioactive tracer goes into the bloodstream. Imaging which shows the heart is then performed. Next, patients walk on a treadmill until they reach their target heart rate. For those unable to walk on the treadmill, the Nuclear Medicine Technologist will administer a medication through an IV that mimics exercise by increasing blood flow to the heart. Last, patients lie still, and final images are recorded. 

Why go nuclear?

Pictures taken during nuclear stress tests provide images of the heart muscle and can show if there is any damage. The rest and stress images are processed and can indicate how well the heart muscle functions during activity and rest and may give valuable information about artery health as well. Not only do nuclear stress tests help providers pinpoint issues to accurately diagnose heart disease, they also provide information used to customize safe treatments dependent on each patient’s heart health and unique capabilities. Providers also use the test to evaluate how current heart treatments may be working so they are able to change care plans if needed. 

If you have been putting off care, please schedule important wellness visits to make sure your heart is its healthiest. Too many people feel the impact of heart disease but there are also many that don’t even know they have it, which puts them at serious risk of complications—or death. Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider and put your heart in the right place at Howard Memorial Hospital.

Posted in:  Health