What is a nuclear stress test?

This test measures and captures images of blood flow to a patient’s heart both while the patient is at rest and while the patient’s heart is exerting itself. To make the heart work harder, the patient may perform exercise or receive a medication.

When is nuclear stress testing recommended?

Cardiologists recommend a nuclear stress test when they suspect a patient may have coronary artery disease (CAD), heart disease, or other cardiac conditions. It also may be used to see how well a cardiac treatment is working.

What is the procedure for nuclear stress testing?

A cardiac specialist injects a very small amount of radioactive dye into the patient's bloodstream and captures radiographs (images similar to x-rays) of the heart at rest. The patient then exercises on a treadmill or stationary bike. Another small amount of radioactive dye is injected, and more radiographs are captured to compare against the first set when the patient was at rest. The dye allows cardiac specialists to identify areas of healthy and unhealthy blood flow. The cardiologist is also able to measure the size and shape of the heart.


What are the results of nuclear stress testing?

The information gathered during a nuclear stress test helps a cardiologist identify specific areas of the heart and coronary arteries that are not working properly. The cardiologist can then make a more specific diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. If the test is performed after treatment, the cardiologist can determine if more or different forms of treatment should be prescribed.